Listener or talker? A 5-minute self analysis exercise

Take a moment to ask 5-10 people whether they think you’re a listener or a talker – be clear that they can only choose one. Whatsapp them, call them or drop them an email – and then wait with bated breaths as they decide your fate.

I’d suggest you contact people from a few different walks of life; work, family, friends – after all, the best and most interesting data comes from polling a variation of subjects.

Before the responses come through, take the time to consider what you would like them to say and why would you rather be considered one or the other? What do you think you are? Do you have the feeling deep down that you would like to be one but you are probably the other?

Drum roll… once you’ve got the results, have a quick read of the below:

I would love you to let me know your own responses and your reaction to them. If you’d like to take a guess at what people said about me, please feel free. Please do not suggest your own option C.) *insert profanity* as one of my friends kindly added for me.

Are you a listener or a talker?

If you managed to take the time to do my quick self analysis exercise, asking 5-10 people if they think you are a listener or a talker, then the likelihood is you’re wondering if the answers you received are a real insight into how you’re viewed (in general, negatively or positively) by others.

Whilst in no way wanting to lead thinking, I’d go as far as to say that if your every response came back as ‘talker’ then you might well be feeling a little disconcerted. I’d also place my bets that many of the responses that answered ‘talker’ came hand in hand with a counter explanation… ‘I’d class you as predominantly a talker… BUT…’ or ‘talker… but you do also listen…’.

If most of your responses came back as talker, how did you feel?

If the answers came back as a straight out ‘listener’ then you’re likely feeling pretty good about yourself, perhaps almost saint like, after all – you have one mouth and two ears for a reason… or so our grandparents said.

If most of you responses came back as listener, how did you feel?

It begs the question why we need to qualify or reassure that being a talker is not a negative thing – whilst being a listener appears to be seen as a worthy quality – no counter needed.

The truth is that most of us are a mix of the two. We need both great active listeners and inspiring talkers to create effective and  communication in business and general life. Rambling on (something I am a fan of) is a great tool to get others to relax and open up. Listening with intention (not as simply a means to respond), is critical to understanding others and integral to personal and business relationships.

Persuasive conversation style – the talker

When you are at a party, you often see a person who’s in the centre of attention. The person is dictating the mood and quite often the topic of conversation. Others are likely listening, responding and reacting – adding meat to the bone of said subject of conversation. The same applies to the boardroom table, or perhaps more apt for 2020, the trouserless Zoom call meeting.

Persuasive communicators (let’s call them talkers) often say what they think first and then try to make people understand their interpretation of the topic. Would I be presumptuous to suggest that many business leaders – due to their passion and beliefs – might well fall into this category?

It’s important to note the positives of being a persuasive talker. You don’t mind conflicts (of which there will likely be some in the business world), are unafraid of being judged and can frequently make unpopular (unspoken?) necessary decisions.

If you recognise yourself in the description above, then the major takeaway is to remain true to your views but allow other people’s thoughts and opinions to impact on your thinking, giving counter views the attention and consideration they deserve. Conversations tend to shut down when people don’t feel heard, or when their points of view are seen as dismissed or secondary.

Interpretative communicators – the listener

interpretative communicators (let’s call them listeners) first try to look at how a person talks about certain subject. They are the friends, colleagues or family members who are trying to understand your perspective and adapt their view to yours, and only then talk in a way you would find most comfortable.

When somebody throws out their opinion, interpretative people try to tailor their way of speaking in a way that suits best to this person who they are talking to. In that sense, they are good listeners.

If you recognise yourself in the description above, then you are likely a pleasure to have a conversation with, people enjoy feeling understood. but it’s important to make sure you don’t go so far down trying to understand others that you forget, or distil your own views completely. Being a great listener can often make you the very best persuasive communicator (talker) as you will be able to convince others of your opinion better because they can talk in a way that others can best understand.

People are neither 100% introverted nor 100% extroverted – and as such are unlikely to be 100% talker or 100% listener. The important thing is that communication should be based on trying to find a negotiation point where both sides can understand each other. This is perhaps best done by understanding your dominant personality type and surrounding yourself with a mix of people who will balance that out for you.

I hope the quick exercise gave you food for thought, as it did for me.

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If you have something on your mind, a challenge you’re wrestling with or just want an alternative point of view, I’d be very happy to lend an ear and maybe help you start to unpick the issues.