Tone is often the most important part of a conversation — and listening is so much more important than what you say.
Do you want to be heard? That question may sound silly; most people would say the whole reason for speaking is to be heard. But often, the way we say things works against that goal. To demonstrate, let me tell you about an incident I saw a while back.
I was in a restaurant. Seated about two tables away was a man, probably in his fifties, and his father. The father looked to be about 25-30 years older than the son.
I’m not sure exactly what they were discussing, but it was clear that the son was trying to convince the father about some future course of action. The father wasn’t buying it. Here’s the part I found interesting: as the conversation continued, neither the father nor the son were listening to each other, and with each turn in the conversation, their volume increased.
Each one thought the way to make his point was to talk louder; they were simply restating the same arguments in a louder voice. Soon it became uncomfortable for everyone around them. Finally, the father cut off the discussion by saying, “I don’t want to talk about it any more. Just drop it.”
I felt like both men took the wrong approach–although I wasn’t about to interject my opinion into an already heated discussion. But there are some lessons the rest of us can learn from this episode.
First, raising your voice lowers your effectiveness. If you really want to be heard, don’t raise your voice, because people will stop listening. What’s more, raising your voice suggests a hostile attitude, so your listeners will get defensive and often strike back with hostile words of their own. Once emotional hostility enters the conversation, there’s very little chance for effective communication.
I also observed that the son was trying to tell the father what to do. That rarely works. People don’t like to be told what to do. Rather than giving someone an order, offer choices you can accept. The son would have been much more effective if he had suggested a couple of options to his father. The only thing the son would have to do is be sure that either option was okay with him.
It does no good to talk if people won’t listen to what you say. To improve your chances of people hearing and accepting your words, always speak in a controlled manner; you have a much better chance of being heard if you lower your volume rather than raise it. And you improve the odds of agreement if you allow the person some control over the decision process. Allow them to choose from options that yield an end result you can accept.
People hear with their ears, but they listen with their heart. If you alienate your listeners, no one will hear or act on what you say.
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.
Bryant H. McGill
Copyright © 2018 John Chancellor