Conversations Tip #1 Connection Before Content

A shortcut today's message is: Always Use your words to establish connection, and a desire and capacity to listen before sharing content with someone.

Every communication you have and others have with you is laden with requests whether you know it or not. The more you are aware of what you are asking of others when you talk to them, the more likely you are to get your needs met and the more connected you and those you talk to will be during your conversation. The first request all conversations have in them is for time, attention and caring. When you speak to others you are asking them to 1) give you their time to listen 2) to give you their attention during that time, 3) to value what matters to you. When others speak to you they are asking you to give them your time and attention and to value what matters to them..

Have you ever been in the middle of writing or reading something important to you, and someone starts talking to you? Maybe they even get annoyed with you because you don’t respond to them in the way you are wanting. Maybe you start to feel annoyed because you were interrupted. You might even have a thought like, “wow, she doesn’t care about what I am doing. She only thinks of herself. ” If you ignore the person or listen to them with “half an ear” nodding your head but not actually paying attention, they might get annoyed with a thought like, “Wow, she doesn’t care at all about me. She only cares about herself.”

Notice how both people end up thinking the other person has 1) been disrespectful 2) doesn’t think the other person values them?

If you have something important to say to someone first ask if they have the time and the ability to listen to you. Don’t assume they do. Expecting someone to drop everything to listen to you (whether consciously or unconsciously) is not treating their time and energy with respect. It’s also not valuing yourself and what you are wanting to share enough to create the space for it to be heard fully.

Conversely, If someone says something to you when you are unable to give them your full attention. Be honest with yourself and them. It is not treating them or yourself with respect to give them time without giving them attention and care.

Here are some examples of how you might phrase your request for time and attention, and might respond to others request (implicit or explicit) for time and attention.

If you have something you want to share with another, stop and notice what they are doing before you talk. Are they engaged in something? Even if they are sitting quietly or working at something you think is probably mindless (like washing the dishes), don’t assume they aren’t engaged in something meaningful. After noticing what they are doing and deciding you’d still like to have their attention, you can make your request explicitly,

  • “I have something I’d like to share with you. Do you have the ability to listen to me right now?”

  • I have something I’d really like to tell you about, is now a good time?”

  • “I think this would really interest you. Can I sit with you, share what I’ve been working on?”

  • “Hey, can we chat?”

  • “I’d really like to talk to you about this project? When would be a good time for you?”

If someone interrupts what you are doing to talk to you and you don’t have the capacity to listen to them because you are engrossed in something, be respectful of your and their time. Let them know that you really want to hear what they have to say because it matters to you, AND because you are in the middle of something you won’t be able to give them the attention you want to give them. This could sound like this:

  • “I can hear you are excited and I really want to see what you have to share. I’m in the middle of something I have to finish by 5pm. Could we chat at 5 when I am done?”

  • “That looks great. I’m worried I’d be distracted if we talked about it right now. I’m free in 30 minutes and could give you all my attention then. Would you share it with me then? It would mean a lot to me.”

  • “It’s so important to me that when you talk to me I listen fully, and I can’t do that right now. I’m really tired and need a chance to rest. Can I go take care of myself and meet you in about an hour?”

  • “Wow, this is a big deal. I want to hear all about it. Could you wait to share it with me until I have more time? I have a full hour at 2pm.”

  • “I really love that you want to include me in what you found. Can it wait until I finish what I'm doing so I can give it my full attention?”

A take away:

  • Start every conversation with respect, acknowledging the importance of others time, attention, and values explicitly (or implicitly - just beware of implicit communications - others may not interpret your actions the way you intend. Using your words increases the chances of having your intended message received).

As a business coach and consultantI use both Non-Violent Communication and Restorative Practices to help clients experience more effective, peaceful and meaningful communication at work, home and play.

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