Let’s talk about a gift that may or may not be a gift at all. It’s called “The Gift of Gab.”
Ever heard of it?
While conducting interviews as research for my new book, More Than Just Talk: The Essential Guide for Anyone Who Wants to Enjoy Better Conversations, a number of people proudly proclaimed to have this social ability. As in, “Oh yes, I have the Gift of Gab. I feel completely comfortable talking to anyone about anything.”
At first, having the GOG does sound rather magical. Like you’re a regular talk show host or something. Others will do whatever it takes to tune in and hang on to your every utterance. You are the most fascinating person in the room!
Or so you think.
Let’s examine this more closely…
First, the person who claims to have the GOG says they are “completely comfortable talking to anyone about anything.” This makes me somewhat happy because a number of people tell me they have no idea what to say to get (or keep) a conversation going. (My friends, that’s a whole different situation, which we will cover in another post.)
And yet, unlike someone with the GOG, a genuinely good conversationalist knows a special secret. They are wise and savvy enough to know that good conversation isn’t just about talking. It’s also about listening, which is considered the rarest and most highly prized conversation trait of all. (Yes! Surprised?) They know that in any conversation, the best conversationalists listen more than they talk. Usually at a ratio of 60:40 or even 70:30.
If you don’t believe me, think of how wonderful it feels when someone stops talking and listens to what you have to say. Without multitasking, interrupting, or turning the conversation back to them. In fact, when was the last time you experienced this euphoria?
Very few people with the GOG seem to be highlighting the extent of their listening skills. No, it’s all about the talking.
With that in mind, let’s also examine what the term gab means. Here are two definitions: “to talk at length, typically about trivial matters” and “to talk in a rapid or thoughtless manner.” Yikes! This doesn’t sound like a gift to me! It sounds more like the kind of socializing many of us try to avoid because it’s such an energy-draining timewaster.
Related to this, a participant in one of my workshops posed a very thoughtful question: “Why don’t people listen more? When you listen, you learn something new.”
Now there’s some profound truth. Allow me to share the 25c answer: We often don’t listen as much as we should because listening is harder and more complex than talking. Talking is expressive and a way to unload what’s happening in a terribly busy and possibly even anxious brain. (Think of the words we use to describe talking: venting, unloading, getting things off our chest.) In contrast, listening requires us to be present and quiet, to restrain our busy brains, and to focus on hearing and processing what the other person is saying. A challenge? Certainly. Something we can work on and improve? You bet. A true gift to our conversation partners. Absolutely!
One more thing…if you want others to listen to you, consider what you’re talking about. Eleanor Roosevelt wisely said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
Can you imagine the day when we can confidently proclaim to others that we aren’t gifted gabbers, but rather we have acquired the Gift of Listening? I know I’m working on this. It takes self-awareness and practice.
Want to discover more about the art, science, and rare gift of listening well? Know someone who could use this information? Grab a copy of More Than Just Talk. It’s available through most online booksellers. Specifically, “Section Six: Expanding and Polishing Your Listening Skills” contains nine short, but thought-provoking chapters that could change how you view and engage in conversations forever. Could be a total life changer!