One-Way Conversations Are Never Good

A salesman boasted that his meeting with customers went well.  He did all the talking and pushed his customers to agree to whatever he suggested.  “Dominating the meeting is important,” the salesman said, “it avoids the meeting turning into a gripe session and at the same time, focuses on getting what we want.” 

Many executives assert their agenda by dominating the conversations they have with their peers and employees.  It’s a practice for some chief executives to summon subordinates, tell them what they want, and dismiss them, at the same time reminding the subordinates to get their assigned task done by a certain date and time.  Sometimes the executives would ask if there are any questions, and if one or two subordinates ask, the executives would show some annoyance especially if the questions seem to contradict the executives’ wishes. 

It doesn’t just happen in the professional world. 

I have friends who’d call me in the middle of the day and want to get into a conversation.  The conversation would turn out to be one-way in which the friends talk and talk about themselves and I listen and listen all throughout.  They hardly ask about my situation and if they do, they’d ask, ‘how are you?’  and instantly after I say, ‘fine,’ they go back to talking about themselves.

Some friends thank me for listening although whatever advice offered would not seriously be considered.  Most discussions usually end up as one-way conversations; it’s always all about them. 

As much as we read about the importance of listening and empathy, most of us would just prefer to tell others what our views are and what we want.  We’d just prefer people listen and follow what we say without argument.  Listening and empathy offer opportunities for others to argue and most of us in this fast-paced world we live in just don’t have time for that. 

We believe listening just adds to the time of a conversation or meeting.  We don’t have time, we’d say, so we end up dominating the meeting and cutting the conversations short.  We’d call it keeping the meeting in line with the agenda or sticking to topic; we really just want to send our messages without further ado.      

Listening is an investment.  It is an investment in which we spend some of that valuable time to hear and empathise what the people whom we talk to are trying to tell us.  The trouble with this investment is that when we do it the first time, we have no inkling what the rewards or benefits will be. 

In many first-time attempts to listen, we don’t experience any benefits, at least none that would have made the time we invested seem worth it for ourselves. 

It is misleading to say empathy is a means to put ourselves in another one’s shoes for the sake of the other.  Empathy is not meant as a charitable exercise.  It is meant as a way to communicate for mutual benefit, i.e., for the benefit of the other person and you.  It is a process not meant to get personally in-touch but for both or more parties to have a discussion steered towards mutually beneficial outcomes.  We don’t listen to be nice; we listen so we can understand and cooperate. 

Any conversation we get into or any meeting we attend is an investment of our time.  When we try to dominate and steer the discussions, we should ask ourselves:  will it lead to mutually beneficial outcomes?  Or will it just result in marching orders to other people who may not really be enrolled to any ideas that are put on the table? 

Domination of a conversation is attractive as it espouses power over others.  Domination, however, implies a one-way form of communication and doesn’t really bring about mutually beneficial outcomes.  It may lead to benefits for the one who is domineering but it likely won’t to the ones who were dominated, at least the latter will likely feel they didn’t feel any good from it.     

Any conversation where all parties feel they got something good out of it is already a benefit.  It makes any investment in listening that leads to two-way mutually beneficial results worth it. 

About Ellery’s Essays

Published by Ellery

Since I started blogging in 2019, I've written personal insights about supply chains, operations management, & industrial engineering. I have also delved in topics that cover how we deal with people, property, and service providers. My mission is to boost productivity via offering solutions and ideas. If you like what I write or disagree with what I say, feel free to like, dislike, comment, or if you have a lengthy discourse, email me at ellery_l@yahoo.com ; I'm also on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/ellery-samuel-lim-40b528b

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: