Shut Up and Listen! A Guide for Talkative Interviewers
by Beth Mende Conny
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Attribution: © 2002-2012 Beth Mende Conny. Beth Mende Conny is the founder of WriteDirections.com and the author of more than four dozen books and collections.
As I discuss in my article “10 Hot Tips for Conducting a Winning Interview,” being able to listen is essential to your writing; ditto for making conversation. Here are some listening tips, many of which I’ve excerpted from my book The Confident Schmoozer.”
Keep Your Trap Shut
It's hard to do, of course. You're one of the world's most fascinating creatures, not to mention its most intelligent. You know everything about everything, be it politics, movies or the differences among coffee beans, and you gladly share that information with others. In fact, you're so busy sharing that you fail to notice no one else is talking. They couldn't if they wanted to. You've elbowed them off stage.
How rudeand dumb. Hogging the floor is incorrectpolitically, socially and professionally. It won't win you friends and will only influence people negatively. Is that what you want?
If not, you've got to do three things. First, trap it. Literally. Don't let anything escape your lips but an occasional exhale. (Even then, keep it low.) If that proves too difficult or awkward, try saying things like: "My apologies. I'm standing here talking away and haven't even asked what you think/do/want/etc." Or: "Gee, I'm sorry. I get so passionate about the subject I can't stop talking."
Second suggestion: Give others the spotlight. One of the best ways to do this is to ask them questions. Good ones, namely those that encourage responses rather than lead back to you. For example, don't say things like this: "So you're going to San Francisco. I've been there dozens of times. Do you want to know the best restaurant for seafood?" What choice does the other person have but to say yes? The poor soul then has to listen to your detailed account of how you found the place, what you ordered, the quality of its food and service, etc.
Instead of asking such a self-centered question, you could ask something like this: "So you're going to San Francisco. Business? Pleasure?"
Undoubtedly, you'll get around to mentioning your previous visits and favorite restaurant, but at least here, you're letting the other person lead off and become your conversational equal.
Third suggestion: Make neutral, open-ended remarks, then wait for others to respond. For example: "There's another snow storm coming in tonight, and I hear it will be worse than last week's." Or: "What a lovely shirt. Not many people look good in that color." Note the word "neutral." It's key. To insert judgmental or inappropriate language is to risk alienating a person. Here's an example that incorporates both: "The boss just hired another salesperson. I wonder if she's a bigger <expletive> than the last one."
Beth Mende Conny is the founder and president of WriteDirections.com. She has published more than four dozen books and collections, and helps individuals and businesses bring their projects to publication. She can be contacted at Beth@WriteDirections.com.