While Conversing, Are You Unconsciously Incompetent?

“It’s all right to hold a conversation, but you should let go of it now and then.”

~ Richard Armour

While Conversing, Are You Unconsciously Incompetent?

By Loren Ekroth

This week’s focal point: People’s behavior is habit-bound, and habits are automatic and unconscious. It’s highly possible that some of your conversation habits are incompetent. That is, they are ineffective in achieving the results you desire. In this article I’ll list a few sending and receiving behaviors I’d consider “incompetent.”

Incompetent Sending Behaviors:

  1. Talking too much without realizing you’re doing so.
  2. Making dogmatic statements that don’t allow other viewpoints.
  3. Too many details; not getting to the point.
  4. Speaking vaguely so listeners don’t understand.
  5. Speaking too softly or mumbling your words.

When you are talking, follow the platinum rule and do unto others what they want and need. Be alert to subtle signals they send you and make adjustments.

Incompetent Receiving Behaviors:

  1. Splitting your attention while listening.
  2. Lack of responsiveness in vocal and facial expressions.
  3. Finishing others’ sentences.
  4. Arguing rather than seeking to understand. “Yes, but . . .”
  5. Assuming you understand without checking accuracy.

Why it’s difficult to know if we’re less than competent:

“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.”

–Daniel Goleman, Psychologist, author of Social Intelligence

Generally, adults won’t give you explicit feedback, so you have to pay attention to their non-verbal behaviors, and those cues may be subtle and easily missed.

The subtitle of a recent book by Demarais and White reads “What You Don’t Know About How Others See You.” All of us, including me, have blind areas that are seen by others but not by ourselves.

Here’s a different option: You can ask people you know and trust to be honest. Example: “Sometimes I think I talk too much. What do you think, Joe? I’d value your honest opinion.”

Note: Here’s a caveat: Don’t ask anyone you know who is overly blunt. As Barbara Sher writes, “Unkind criticism is never part of a meaningful critique of you. Its purpose is not to teach or to help, its purpose is to punish.”

You can be on the lookout for feedback given off by others. (That’s always a good practice.) And you can ask others, which is more risky. You can also participate in groups like Toastmasters Clubs where giving and receiving feedback is part of the program.

Used with permission of Dr. Loren Ekroth, publisher of “Better Conversations” newsletter. Complimentary subscriptions at www.conversationmatters.com.

Coaching Call to Action

Based on your list of Top Leadership Skills: How would you rank “competent conversation skills”? Take the poll below or click here to take the poll, and also see how others responded.