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Why it's hard to hear everyone in the room

I went out to dinner a while ago. I’m a good listener. Yet I found myself barging into the conversation with the subtly of a dump truck. It was impossible to get a word in edgeways. My friends never shut up, there was no gap, no pause, no space for thinking, it was relentless. I started to get really annoyed then decided I didn’t care; I was done listening and I was going to trample on in there. Which I did, talked right over the top of them, interrupted, and kept going, damned if I was going to give back the talking stick. It was pretty poor behaviour, and even now I feel unrepentant.

Advice would have it that we talk to our friends, explain how we’d like to have conversations and take it from there. I’m. Not. Doing. That.

Until I. Did. Do. That. We did have a medical lever for the conversation, one of us has had a stroke and, whilst well recovered, it’s harder for them to enter the conversation if there are no gaps. We talked, explained and all arranged ourselves accordingly, and tried hard to leave spaces and invite each other into the conversation.

We messed up and boomeranged back to our old ways whenever we could get away with it, but it was definitely better. It was also obvious that we individually thought we were better at it than the others which was frankly hilarious (obviously I was the best….) as we were all culpable.

These are good friends, who we have spent loads of time with, yet this was the most rewarding evening we’d ever had with them.

It does make me wonder about our socialisation, and how that translates into how we are at work. It feels like leaders being aware of this social force will help them understand what they are dealing with when they try to get balanced contributions around the table with their teams and groups.

A top tip would be to decide what your path is for this contribution (i.e. talking in a round, being succinct, asking questions) and be consistent, the boomerangs will become less and you’ll all start to get what’s needed.


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