How do I avoid rambling in conversation?
If the person you are talking to walks away or appears to have ‘zoned out’ when you’re speaking to them in one-to-one conversation it may be helpful to ask yourself a few questions about why this has happened.
1. Is it all about you? If you are nervous they you may not have noticed that you are dominating the conversation. How to fix it: Notice when you have been talking for more than sixty seconds and take this as a cue to turn the spotlight into the other person in the conversation. When they turn the spotlight back onto you shine it back onto them as soon as you can. Everyone loves attention, but resist the temptation to keep it all to yourself.
2. Why do you need attention? A conversation is a two-way street. You may want to get something off your chest but think about what the other person in the conversation may need. Avoid launching into a 10-minute speech. It is very tiring to listen to and frustrating when you can’t get a word in edgeways.
3. Are you speaking to the right person? If the person you are speaking to seems not to be listening consider whether you are talking to the right person. It may be that you are assuming a level of privilege that the other person feels uncomfortable with. If you pick up signals that the other person is uncomfortable, switch the spotlight back onto them and give them a change to speak. They may wish to change the conversation or may have something on their minds that they would like to share.
4. Have they heard this one before? Are you guilty of off-loading the same old moans and groans onto your friends? They may listen to the same story or complaint two or three times out of politeness, but you can hardly blame them for disengaging if you continue to repeat yourself like a broken record. Change that record for a new one!
5. Can they fix it? If you have a problem, be it personal or professional, you may find it comforting to share it with someone. However, some people become very frustrated if they can’t help you fix the problem. If you sense the other person isn’t comfortable, wind up the conversation, switch the spotlight onto them or change the subject.
6. Are you listening? Are you hearing what the other person is saying and are you reading their body language and non-verbal cues. If someone has walked away from the conversation, chances are they were trying to give you a range of signals to tell you that they felt uncomfortable long before they took the drastic decision to walk away. Be alert to these signals and as soon as you spot them give the other person the opportunity to speak.
Think about the last disappointing or frustrating conversation you had. Write down when you felt the conversation begin to go wrong and how you felt. Ask yourself, were there verbal or non-verbal clues that I missed? Could I have been a better listener? What actions might I have taken to ensure a better outcome for both of us?
Next time you are in a conversation with this person, make a special effort to shine the spotlight of attention on them more frequently, keep an eye on their body language and if they seem uncomfortable allow them to close the conversation down or change the subject. Conversations need to be two-way. Work on bringing balance to your conversations and you will both benefit.
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