The great 19th Century American writer, Mark Twain, once said, “The worst kind of death is to be talked to death.” Twain’s message illustrated how excruciating it can be when you find yourself trapped in a boring conversation with a long-winded, unaware individual.
Last weekend I found myself in this type of situation when I went to pick up my friend Tom for a morning of beach volleyball. When I drove up to Tom’s house, I bumped into Tom’s neighbor, Ed. My experience with Ed is that he likes to tell long stories. Therefore, I have to be careful about getting into conversations with him when I have time constraints (like getting to the beach in time to meet up with friends).
Now I should first point out that Ed is a very nice person and to him a friendly conversation is part of his normal way of socializing. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to recognize when the other person is short on time or he just doesn’t know how to keep his stories brief. With Ed, it is very common for me to make a general comment in passing like “it’s a great day for volleyball” and have that lead to a 10-minute monologue on his part. Ed will often reply to such a comment by saying, “Yes, it’s a great day for volleyball. It reminds me of a time back in Kansas when I used to play ball and…blah, blah, blah.”
I’m sure that I come across to Ed as being a little rude but I’m almost forced to cut him short or listen impatiently when I don’t have the time. Ed doesn’t realize that his tendency to tell long, uninterrupted stories causes me to want to avoid getting into conversations with him. Even when I do have time to chat, I have to prepare myself for an unbalanced conversation where I’m likely to spend about 80% of my time listening and only 20% talking.
Ed may not be aware of himself being long-winded or maybe he doesn’t know how to be brief. In an effort to help those individuals who don’t know how to be brief, here are some pointers that will balance the air time so other people have an equal chance to talk:
• Don’t talk more than 15 seconds without letting the other person say a few words. This gives the other person a chance to say something before talking too much on your part.
• If you feel the need to share a story make sure to preface it by saying “Here’s a quick story.” Or you can also try asking for permission by saying “Can I tell you a quick story?”
• Make your quick stories quick by limiting yourself to two minutes at the most.
• Tell only the action part of the story. Avoid spending much time setting the scene or background to your story. If the story is interesting to the other person and they have the time to listen, there will be time later to fill in the details later when asked.
• Don’t start at square one – skip ahead to the meat of the story where the action lies.
• Like telling a joke, don’t draw out your story too long with lots of details or else you risk losing the attention of your audience.
• Ask “Are you with me?” somewhere in the middle of your story if you sense that you’re losing your audience’s attention. This also means that effective communication requires you to monitor the non-verbal response of your audience.
• If you start to drag or the listener shows you by their body language that they are not paying much attention quickly sum up your remarks by saying, “So to make a long story short…” or “So the point of my story is this….” or “So in other words,….”
To be an effective communicator in both your personal and professional relationships, you must learn how to be brief. The reality of communication is that most people’s attention spans are short…and sometimes very short!
THE BOTTOM LINE)
Don’t bore people with long monologues. Learn to say what you have to say quickly, get to the point, and let the other person have a chance to speak. This habit will allow you to have a more receptive audience the next time you encounter these same people.
Learn How To Be Brief - Master Your Communication Skills Tip