A big part of being a good conversationalist is the ability to listen. Being tuned in to what other people are saying is essential for good two-way communication. People know when they have your undivided attention¦or not.
The thing about good conversation is that it is quick, witty, intuitive, and edgy. When people click on this level, the conversation flows effortlessly. Unfortunately, there is no way it can happen without the participants being finely tuned to each other. Each person must listen to the other and fully understand what is being said. Only then, can they keep the tempo of the conversation going with their own similar contribution.
This level of listening requires focus. In my case, I was so busy worrying about what to say next, wondering what people thought of me, and just trying to shut off that negative inner voice, that I would miss entire conversations. Im sure many have dismissed me as being stuck-up or aloof – If they only knew.
Actually, I was probably viewed as being more spaced-out, than stuck-up. Yeah, thats so much better.
I suppose its like walking and chewing gum; or like talking to someone over the phone when you know they are watching television. If you take resources from one area, you lose them in others. Lets just say that multi-tasking is not my specialty.
One particularly bad habit I had was that I could not remember peoples names (even after being introduced 10 minutes previously). This was unbelievably embarrassing because folks can tell when youve forgotten their names. I mean, I can tell when someone has forgotten my name, and to be honest with you, it doesnt make me feel very good. However, I buried my head in the sand and convinced myself that they wouldnt notice. Ha!
At this point in my life, I can honestly say that I have not completely turned things around. Introverted, inward thoughts are the trademark of a social anxiety sufferer. This is one nasty, automatic habit that has been with me for as long as I can remember. In fact, to say that Ive gotten out of that habit would be to say that Ive cured myself of social anxiety.
Yet, with a little hard work and determination, I have managed to make some headway.
Of course, the first thing I had to do was to be more aware of my thoughts. I needed to constantly remind myself when I was drifting away and not concentrating on what was happening around me. This takes conditioning and is not easy. For me, I had to remind myself to take a quick assessment every few minutes when I was socializing. Forcing my brain to stay focused on the outside world instead of the familiar domain of my obsessive thoughts, took an incredible amount of effort.
Self-awareness and projecting my thoughts outward inside of inward – thats what I do; and its made a huge difference.
The only trick I really use is association to help me remember things like peoples names. Thats it – the rest is pure concentration.
The good news is that I am seeing positive results with every social encounter I run into. I only hope that, some day, it might come automatically. Its exhausting having to think about it all the time.