Double fault conversations?

By Priscilla H. Douglas

Q:   Over the last year I thought I was having open and direct conversations with my colleague, but now I find that we are on opposite sides. I am shocked! How can I ever trust this person?

A: Now is the perfect time to examine how open and direct your communication style really is. You might ask:

  • How much time am I talking?
  • How much time do I listen?
  • Am I listening to confirm what I already know or am I listening to learn something new?
  • Do I catch myself waiting for my turn to talk? Note: If you are waiting for your turn to talk, it is like a double fault in tennis: (1) you are not open and (2) you are probably not listening.

Continuing the tennis metaphor, it’s helpful to view conversations as a tennis match: Hit the ball over the net and wait for the ball to return. Conversations should be a well-timed give and take, back and forth. And with that framework in mind, consider your conversations with your colleague: Perhaps you hit the ball over the net by expressing your views, for example, on climate change or tax reform.   And maybe you didn’t wait for your colleague to return the ball. Imagine that you kept throwing your own ball up into the air and hitting it across the net — crazy, huh?

We are facing complex issues that beg for serious dialogue and debate based on the artful appreciation of facts. Avoid trying to rush conversations to make a point if you do so you will miss the opportunity to see, hear and integrate “new” points of views. However, in our day to day rush, its easy to double fault — we lose the serve and the point — because: 

  1. Most people simply don’t listen, and
  2. We don’t allow people who have different views a “safe space” to air them.

Remember: The quickest way to build trust is to listen. 


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