Saturday, September 29, 2007

Knowing the How/When of Talking and Listening

Conversation is a human activity between two people: a speaker and a listener, during which their roles can interchange. That much everybody knows. Some are good speakers, while some are good listeners. We learn that too through engaging in our own share of conversations. But are we both a good speaker and a good listener rolled into one?

I found some simple answers, not entirely surprising as we know them but somehow do not put them into practice, in this brief Chinese article, which I chanced upon while Net surfing. As usual, I was hit by the translation bug, thinking that sharing it here, in English, might prompt some of us who are wont to talking more than listening, into recognizing the peril of listening to our own voice too often, and hence becoming ones who know how to talk by listening well. Read on then.

Knowing the How/When of Talking and Listening
[This title is a tad more explicit than its Chinese counterpart would suggest.]

When one learns to talk, one needs to learn to listen as well. They form the two sides of the same coin, encompassing the full range of the ability to talk well.

Our ability to talk hinges on two pre-requisites: unbiased thinking and patience. Talking is a two-way communication, and is not a monologue; and patience is required in facing up to others’ inquiries and opinions, no matter how na├»ve or ignorant they may seem. A simple question should beget a simple answer from us; likewise for a complex question.

Talking is for conveying our thoughts, and not for finding faults in others. Therefore, refrain from imputing on the weaknesses of others. Such an inconsiderate action will only bring about undesirable consequences, much like what one would expect from poking somebody’s eyes.

Sometimes, you don’t need to expound on some principles, but just listening attentively can convey an understanding, an agreement, an acceptance. At other times, people just need to be listened to, and not seek any profound treatise.

Talking too much dilutes the significance of the intended message. It also runs the risk of disclosing irrelevant and inappropriate contents by encouraging the proverbial loose tongue. This is often construed as bragging, consequently diminishing the worth of the communication. Therefore, know what to talk and when to talk, so that our talks are not relegated to mere restroom graffiti, compromising their worth.

Lying leads to cheap talks, their values severely discounted. The lying may at first be prompted by specific circumstances. However it may easily develop into a pattern if we are not cautious, turning us into habitual liars regardless of the circumstances. But a liar cannot hope to escape detection, and will be branded as unreliable, both in speech and as a person.

Sometimes, we would like to offer constructive views. But the timing of the delivery, and whether the mode of the delivery is acceptable to others, become prime considerations.

When we come across rumors, we, like judges, should not view than as absolutes. Instead, try to understand their points of view, which are likely borne out of their peculiar set of circumstances. We should listen objectively like judges do, from different perspectives.

Even when you understand the real issues, you might not need to defend the truth. Explaining the truth that is not acceptable to the other party is not going to change his/her perception. It might even lead to further strain and misunderstanding. We are all different, and some of us are more prone to misunderstanding others.

Arguing can mutually motivate each other to greater understanding provided both sides have the right frame of mind. Otherwise, arguing becomes meaningfulness if it is stalemated by entrenched polemics.

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