I heard a story once about people in a foreign land trying to communicate, one spoke English and the other didn’t. And the English person just kept talking louder and louder and making bigger gestures with their hands — even though the two people communicating didn’t have a language in common. That’s what I thought looking at the replay of the Rosie O’Donnell and Elizabeth Hasselbeck encounter today.
I had to call it an encounter, I certainly couldn’t call it a conversation. It was pretty ugly. Not that they weren’t entitled to disagree with each other, but they weren’t even listening to each other. It reminded me of all the times when I was so excited about something that I would jump in before the other person had finished speaking. Or finish a sentence when the other person had paused too long. Or talk over someone to get my own point of view across. I’m not proud of my tendencies to do this.
Now I’ve been watching The View from time to time from the time that it first appeared on daytime television. (Sometimes I’m writing at my desk and have it on as background.) As the participants at the table have changed over the years, one of the things that’s been a constant has been the consistent talking over each other. This show has actually been a terrible model for conversation. We tend to subliminally absorb what we see and assume that’s all right.
And in the competitive world of business, I personally learned that sometimes I had to put the manners I’d learned aside and force my way into the conversation during a meeting or a conference call. When others won’t wait or ask for the silent participant’s opinions, I learned to jump in and join the fray. That’s probably why I still do that, even when the professional communicator in me knows that’s not the best way to build relationships with people.
So where are you on this continuum? Do you wait to be asked to contribute and lean more to the silent side of the scale or are you constantly talking over and on top of other people?
And if you’re in a leadership role, when you run a meeting, are you conscious of being alert and managing for this human dynamic?
Sometimes just being conscious and aware is all you need to make a better choice in a specific situation.
Unless of course, someone has pushed our buttons, like Rosie and Elisabeth did to each other, and all conscious control goes out the window.