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Ways to Learn Conversation Skills

W. A. I. T. - Why Am I Talking?


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		  W. A. I. T. - Why Am I Talking?   

How would you answer the question “Why am I talking?” 
1. Because everyone else is talking. 
2. I have an urge to talk. 
3. I want attention. 
4. In order to communicate with a purpose 
5. I don't know. 

In our society, a lot of talk seems routine and automatic.  By contrast, in Finland (ironically, the cellphone capital of  the world) people speak with few words, apparently having  done some thinking before verbalizing. Or, as one anthropologist  has suggested, due to a certain cultural shyness.   

Most of the talk I witness does not seem to be mindful.  A lot of talk seems empty of real value except for the quite  Useful purpose of bonding people. That's the function of small  talk. However, even that bonding purpose seems bankrupt if a  person needs to make ten phone calls a day to the same friend,  spouse, or relative.   

Most Behavior is Out-of-Awareness   

Many of our behaviors are habitual. We can drive a car,  ride a bike, type a sentence, or walk into the next room  without thinking about what we're doing. We can just “do it.”  The same can be said of our talking behavior. We can  easily go `on automatic` without being aware of why we  are talking or even what we are saying.   

How often do people apply conscious guidelines before  Talking such as these suggested by Henry Babcock?   

`When I want to speak, let me think first: 
-Is it true? 
-Is it kind? 
-Is it necessary? 
If not, let it be left unsaid.` 

No Talking Allowed   

We discover how automatic our talking is when we are  required to be silent for long periods of time. For example,  during a yoga or zen silent retreat, rules may require hours  or even days of silence. No talking. Time is to be used for  individual meditation and reflection. Many persons find this  a very difficult thing to do.   

Native Americans Careful About Talk   

In a Native American Iroquois Council, members speak  in a lean, succinct manner, often interspersing talk with periods  of silence. Speakers are mindful of the power of their words  and their responsibility in uttering them. This cultural form  has increasingly been borrowed by non-native groups in order  to bring the quality of mindfulness to a discussion.   

Similarly, in the ancient Hawaiian system of Ho`oponopono  (group problem-solving through discussion), the leader calls  a time-out for all to become still if discussants raise their voices,  speak blamefully, or begin to argue. Each is reminded to speak  their truth in a respectful manner.   

Gaining Awareness   

So much talk is out-of-awareness that certain speakers are  quick to deny what they said. They may continue to insist that  `I didn't say that` until a recording is played back to them. Even  psychiatrists in training, ostensibly among the most aware of  communicators, have been shocked when they observed their  talking and nonverbal behavior when played back to them on video.   

How do we become more purposeful in our conversations?  We must first see value in mindfulness, and then we must commit  to being more mindful. We may need to ask for honest feedback  from others, or we may need a recording and listen to the playback.   

Speaker and consultant Allen Weiss writes,   

“Do you know what ‘measure twice, cut once' means,  interpersonally? It means that you should think long and hard  before saying something damaging to someone else, because  you can never `undo` the cut.”  


Loren Ekroth ©2012, All rights reserved.

Loren Ekroth, Ph.D. is a specialist in human communication and a national expert on conversation for business and social life.

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