On The Bricks

February 25, 2019

My favorite people to spend time with are not those who think like me, they don’t have to look like me, and I don’t care how smart they are or how important their job is. What matters to me is if they are interesting. The Nov. 2018 Toastmaster magazine had an article that explains it well.

To be interesting you need to be able to have a good conversation with people. It doesn’t mean you have to be a talker or that you need to know everything. It just means you know how to have a conversation.

Talking well and conversing well are not the same thing. We often think someone is a good conversationalist because they’re funny, witty or tell good stories. But that’s what a stand – up comedian does well, and that isn’t conversation.

If one person is dominating the conversation – talking about what they’re doing, what they believe or what they know – that’s more of a lecture. One person is supplying information, and the other person is mostly absorbing that information or tuning out.

A conversation is also not a debate. A debate is an adversarial exchange, even when it’s civil, in which two people are putting forth arguments for opposing sides. A debate can be productive and informative, but it’s not a conversation.

A conversation is a mutual exchange of ideas. To have a real conversation, you must hear what the other person is saying, think about it, and then respond. We often don’t hear everything someone says. Instead, we listen to the first five to ten seconds and then stop listening and simply wait for them to stop talking so we can say what we want to say.

“Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand,” says author Stephen Covey. “We listen with the intent to reply.”

The most essential component of a good conversation is engaged listening.

Listening is hard because it requires you be focused and present. In an era of smartphones and other distractions, it’s difficult to practice mindfulness. Even if your phone never makes a sound, you may be less focused when it’s near because your brain is prepared for it to make noise.

Because your brain knows you might receive a text, email, or other notification at any time, it may remain on constant alert.

Research shows that typical daily stress can cause your IQ to drop about 10 points because your brain is in fight – or – flight mode most of the day. But the cognitive cost you pay is higher. Since that phone causes your mind to be in a constant state of stress, the prefrontal cortex is too busy to help you listen or respond to what you hear during a conversation. The prefrontal cortex is involved with executive decisions, planning, impulse control, and complex thought.

So, while your phone is visible and keeping your prefrontal cortex busy dealing with stress, you are not making good decisions, planning for the future, or controlling your impulses. This could cause your conversation to go awry.

We all need to work on our conversation skills. We’ll be more interesting as we do.

And if you want to practice, there is a Recycling Conversation happening on Mar. 16 from 10 am to noon in the Main Street Guymon office. It’s time to find out about opportunities we have in Guymon to recycle. This conversation is hosted by the Rose Garden Club.

See you on the bricks!