Have you ever noticed someone’s eyes glazing over as you relate an exciting story about a recent experience? Maybe you’ve given a lot of thought to one of your opinions, then expressed it in detail, only to find that the other person soon ends the discussion. If either of these situations sounds familiar to you, you might be overdoing it in discussion. As much as you might be interested in getting your thoughts out, now might be a good time to work on conversational restraint. Remember the old adage, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt”?
You might feel that holding back details is insincere. When telling a story, maybe you feel that it’s important to include every little detail so that your listener can understand the situation exactly as you did. However, even the most interested people have limited attention spans. It’s not polite for someone to interrupt you to say, “You’re going on and on, get to the point,” even if that’s what they’re thinking. It’s up to you to give them a chance to speak every so often. They’ll decide whether to move the conversation forward or ask for clarification on the details.
When it comes to sharing your opinions, you might feel that the best policy is to be up-front about what you think and why you think it. However, by doing so, you may be inadvertently shutting down an opportunity to learn something that would help you develop a more nuanced view of the topic. If your listener views the subject differently, they may decide that it would not be worth their time to engage with you, as you’re already set in your thinking — even if that’s not actually the case.
Instead of diving in, when a subject you’re passionate about comes up, merely hint at your position. After gauging the other person’s reaction, you’ll have a better idea if they’d be interested in a good faith discussion, or if you should move on from the topic.
Have you ever been asked a question, then noticed you were still speaking long after you’d given the answer? Whenever you expel a large volume of words about anything, you’re revealing a whole number of things about yourself. Sometimes what you reveal isn’t necessarily what you’d like to. Fortunately for you, there’s an easy fix. Pick up the habit of asking, “Did I answer your question?” If they say yes, it’s best to move on unless they ask for more detail.
Don’t worry that being more reserved will turn you into an icy person. Because of your restraint, you’ll have more time to take an interest in whomever you talk to. Encourage your conversation partner to share their thoughts on topics that excite you. Some people may be hesitant at first because they don’t often have someone willing to truly listen. If this seems like the case, let them know you’re just such a person. Because their thoughts are often bottled up and developing with nowhere to go, you’re likely to receive rare insight.
Practice shortening your thoughts to their most concise forms so that you can spend more time listening to others. The more you listen, the more your ideas will be worth hearing!