Thinking Out Loud

It’s Not Really That Simple

Back in November, 2010 a Wall Street Journal article reported on recent research about talkers vs. non-talkers and how the non-talkers control the conversation. This, of course, is counter-intuitive because the conventional wisdom would say that talkers are in control. The thesis is that when the non-talker is done listening, the conversation is over. So often we want to simplify interpersonal communication by making people a this or a that, in this case talkers and non-talkers. (The article does, however, keep men and women out of the usual pigeon-holes.)

I spend a lot of time working with people to understand the nuances of their communication, which gets to the heart of the Communication Styles Framework. Someone may be more of a talker, but if you stop there and only focus on that element you miss the fuller picture, likewise with the non-talker. It’s more complicated than just being a talker or non-talker.

Interpersonal communication involves images, feelings, sounds, words, gestures and more. Being more or less of a talker doesn’t really tell us much about what’s going on and, more importantly, what we can do to foster better understanding—which is the goal of interpersonal communication. There are those who paint pictures with words, those who tell stories because that’s how their mind works, those who must logically present all the facts to fully communicate what they are experiencing. It’s not just about what you need as the listener to fully understand, it’s also what the speaker needs to create to complete their own process.

Also, let’s say my capacity to listen is less than your capacity to talk in a given conversation. Why is that? Perhaps, I’m tired, confused about what’s important to you, or I believe I’ve already gotten the point. These are all possibilities. At times it’s helpful for the listener to give kind and thoughtful feedback to the talker if any of these things are occurring. Also, it’s important (most of the time) to be patient, giving the other person enough space to satisfy their need to talk. Yes, I understand that some people do go on (I’ve been known to be in that category, myself!).

Likewise if you’re a talker, it’s important to realize that others often have a limit to what they can take in and digest. Say something about it: “I know I’m going on and I appreciate your listening, but I’m pretty wound up about this and need to get it off my chest.”

Interpersonal communication isn’t a simple matter. Accounting for the needs of both the speaker and the listener is important. But mostly it’s important to be patient, recognizing that we are all different, and we are more than just talkers or non-talkers.

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