what to say next

Published on May 4, 2020

What should I say next?

When I am talking with someone, there is often a voice in the back of my mind that starts thinking about what I am going to say next before the other person has finished speaking.

This is a natural tendency for me. When I am talking with people in tech, I almost always have an idea to add onto what they are saying; when I am talking with my boss, I almost always have written down a few notes to follow-up on after he has finished talking.

It’s natural to want to speak, especially when you already have someone’s attention.

Over the last few days, I have been trying to shut off this voice and instead listen more to what the other person is saying.

I used to think that I should just talk less and listen more, but the very act of preparing what I am going to say next is distracting.

I often find that, when I am thinking about what to say next, I lose track of what the other person has been saying to me. This means that: (i) I miss out on potentially crucial information and; (ii) I am less able to provide a personalized response to the person after they have finished talking, because I am operating on incomplete information.

When someone else is talking, I should focus on the words coming out of their mouth.

There is always something that I can say, so I should not worry about whether I’ll have something to say after they finish talking. I should just listen to the information they are trying to communicate to me.

Even if what another person is saying is seemingly unimportant, the very fact that they are sharing it tells me one thing: they think it is important for me to know. So, even if I can’t see the value in something, perhaps that is because I don’t have the full story yet.

I don’t need to think about what to say next. If I think about what I’m going to say too much, I’ll never be able to make the most of conversations. I should listen first, then talk later (and only if I feel like I need to talk).

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