Talk Less by Talking Better

Empathy Personal leadership Respect


Key Point: If I had an opportunity to create a behavior change that would have an immediate positive impact on people working together, it would be: “Talk less by talking better.” And frankly I think the behavior of inefficient talking (and listening) is at its worst in bunches of really smart people. Why? Because “smart” people think they already know what you’re saying and have figured out your intent. So, often they jump to a conclusion, with their words aimed at agreeing or proving you wrong (or proving themselves smarter). We would be so much further ahead dialogue wise, if we took the time to talk better (and therefore really listen) by SINCERELY asking clarifying questions.

People on transmit as a default operating process often fire away with their opinions. They can talk by or over others. But those who tend to say nothing until forced to weigh in on a topic are not very helpful to contributing to meaningful dialogue either. Just because someone is quiet doesn’t mean they are necessarily listening any better than the yappers. In fact, this hiding behind “I’m just an introvert” is disingenuous. I’ve been around lots of teams in many countries and organizations of all sizes. Most of us could do better in fostering much better dialogue. Here’s how:

Character Moves:

  1. Become exceptionally skilled at asking SINCERE listening and CLARIFYING questions regarding the content of the dialogue. As an example: What are you hoping to accomplish with your proposal? Why do you think about the situation that way? Could you help me better understand the principles behind your proposition? Etc. (If you haven’t learned the STP tool I offer for free on my website, you may be missing out on a very useful framework for dialogue.)
  2. People really appreciate being understood. That often is more important than whether people eventually agree or disagree. But it is difficult to be understood when people believe they already know your situation, objectives, intent and proposition without digging further into the content. That’s because we are often incomplete in telling the whole story and need great listeners to make the content sufficiently comprehensive. When people become superb as a team, asking and capturing responses to great clarifying questions, the dialogue and decision-making improves dramatically.
  3. It is more important to become known for the great questions you ask to bring crystal clarity to a subject than whether you talk too much or not. It is how you talk to help yourself and everyone listen and understand better that enriches dialogue and effective team building.

How you talk (and listen) better in The Triangle,