In Others’ Words: Conversations

“Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness.” ~ Margaret Millar, American-Canadian mystery-suspense writer

Do I ever come across like that out-of-proportion-mostly-a-mouth woman pictured above?

Oh, how I hope not.

Do I participate in conversations with friends and family? Or do I act like some sort of running off at the mouth comedian positioned front and center stage or — gasp! — a politician vying for votes and talking, talking, talking?

I’ve witnessed drive-by monologues — and been victimized by them too. “Conversations” where I wasn’t certain the other person even listened to what they said. (I didn’t.) Every single spoken word, phrase and sentence was about them … and repeat, repeat, repeat.

In Your Words: How do you ensure that a conversation is a verbal two-way street — a little bit of you, a little bit of ย someone else, a little bit of you, a little bit of someone else? Any tips for turning a monologue into a dialogue?

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  1. Karen S. Elliott
    February 29, 2012, 5:35 am   /  Reply

    Yes, I have been the victim of these one-sided conversations…when I do manage to get a word in, the other person waits for me to take a breath, and then just goes on and on. I know that sometimes I interrupt people. I am working on that. Listening is an art, but listening to a one-sided conversation (the blah blah blah of someone running on about themselves) is no fun. And not very friend-like.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 29, 2012, 6:25 am   /  Reply

      “The blah blah blah” — yes, I’ve been part of those kind of conversations too.
      My goal is to never been the blah-blah-blah-er.

  2. February 29, 2012, 6:01 am   /  Reply

    I bet you could guess how I do…I ask a boatload of questions.
    ~ Wendy

    • Beth Vogt
      February 29, 2012, 6:25 am   /  Reply

      Great technique to be other-focused: questions, lots of questions.

  3. February 29, 2012, 6:29 am   /  Reply

    I had to laugh at this picture. I guess for me, I usually realize it halfway through if I’m talking too much, and I apologize and start asking questions. I try to show people I’m genuinely interested in them. Hopefully that comes across.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 29, 2012, 11:41 am   /  Reply

      I had to use that photo, Lindsay. It’s perfect, isn’t it? And I’m with you — sometimes I have to stop myself and back up my verbal blah-blah-blah train.

  4. February 29, 2012, 7:09 am   /  Reply

    That is such an awesome quote. I’m sure I’ve done that, and been on the receiving end. Important to remember in writing, too, unless we’re revealing a character trait–er, flaw.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 29, 2012, 11:41 am   /  Reply

      Nice application to writing, Dee!

  5. February 29, 2012, 8:19 am   /  Reply

    When chatting with friends, I try to be conscious of how much I’m babbling. Like Wendy, questions do the trick. “So…what’s going on with you these days? How’s so and so?” Although, I do have this one friend that asks me to lunch sometimes and I promise, she talks the entire time and when she’s done, it’s been about an hour or so and we have to go…well, I have to go. But I know this about her and I never plan on talking. Most of the time I think, how can I make you a crazy character in my book! LOL

    • Beth Vogt
      February 29, 2012, 11:42 am   /  Reply

      Yep, there are friends who you know are talkers … and that’s the nature of the friendship.
      I wonder if someone feels that way about me?

  6. February 29, 2012, 10:44 am   /  Reply

    OK, I’ll admit it. I’m guilty. If someone asks me about my writing, I could go on for hours. I do my best to rein myself in, but my poor hubby deserves a trophy for the countless hours he’s listened to me. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I don’t like to monopolize a conversation and work hard not to. Like Wendy, the best way I’ve found to pull others out is by asking questions. My mass communication/journalism training has helped with this, but I have to be careful to sound natural and not make a person feel like she’s being interviewed.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 29, 2012, 11:43 am   /  Reply

      Now I’m wondering how many of my writing buddies have a journalism degree like me.
      I always say that’s what my degree is in: asking questions.

      • February 29, 2012, 3:19 pm   /  Reply

        I do, but I think you knew that. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, the journalists in us cannot help the questions…

        • Beth Vogt
          February 29, 2012, 4:56 pm   /  Reply

          Lots of journalists joining the conversation today!

  7. February 29, 2012, 10:46 am   /  Reply

    Oooooh and ouch…I, too, have probably been on both ends of this.

    I agree with the other commenters: the way to make sure the other person gets heard is to ask questions and acknowledge their feelings, even if you don’t agree. It’s amazing what even a simple quasi-question like “Really?” can get the other person to feel heard. Another helpful one is “I think you’re saying that ______________. Is that right?” Or “It sounds like you’re saying _____________. Is that what you mean?” This is a great opportunity to clarify what they’re saying and what you’re hearing.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 29, 2012, 11:44 am   /  Reply

      Would love to have a face to face conversation with you one day, Elizabeth. You sound like a natural conversationalist.

  8. February 29, 2012, 11:15 am   /  Reply

    Funny, a coworker and I were just talking yesterday about how easy it is, when someone starts to tell you a story about their life, to interrupt and launch into a story from your own life.

    I think being a reporter definitely helped me as a conversationalist. I learned to listen, to ask questions which showed I was listening, to carry myself in conversations which covered completely unfamiliar ground.

    • Beth Vogt
      February 29, 2012, 11:44 am   /  Reply

      Reporter skills come in so handy, don’t they?

  9. February 29, 2012, 11:45 am   /  Reply

    I like to ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. It keeps me from talking about myself too much. But then sometimes I get in a conversation with someone who uses the same technique…sneaky little buggers…and I’m left scrambling to turn the tables on them. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Beth Vogt
      February 29, 2012, 12:28 pm   /  Reply

      Oh, Sarah, you make me laugh. Next time I see you it will be a duel of questions! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. February 29, 2012, 3:09 pm   /  Reply

    I find that I babble (and they babble in return) when I haven’t seen or spoken to a friend in a long time. It’s like we’re both trying to catch up on how much life has happened since we last spent time together. My three sisters and I do that. But somehow, we all get what each other says. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Beth Vogt
      February 29, 2012, 4:55 pm   /  Reply

      That kind of “haven’t seen you in forever” conversation? So, so understandable!

  11. March 1, 2012, 11:57 am   /  Reply

    I am guilty of the monologue at home for sure–i talk a lot around the people I love/trust. In public/social situations I probably come across as a journalist–b/c I ask a lot of questions! Part of it is because for me it’s safer to listen than to divulge. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Great topic Beth!

  12. March 1, 2012, 1:58 pm   /  Reply

    I’m with the other folks- asking questions. But I’m guilty of talking too much when it’s a topic I’m passionate about. This was perfect when I was a teacher and I could talk all day to a room full of high schoolers who had to listen…err, pretend like they were listening. ๐Ÿ™‚

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