Conversation Is Not a Competition

Yesterday on Twitter, someone tweeted something that I've been thinking about all day: "conversation is not a competition." I'm probably overly conscious of the ways that we can monopolize a conversation, transforming a conversation into a monologue. This comment, though, made me think about the important role of listening in conversations, especially since it was made within the context of thinking about the value of the "pause." Lately, I've been wondering if I really listen or if I just "perform" listening by nodding my head, making eye contact, and saying "uh huh" periodically to indicate my attention. Too often, I think, we use the time that someone is talking to formulate what we want to say instead of really listening.

Today in a group discussion I decided to try to focus on listening. Here's what happened: the conversation moved in directions I didn't anticipate. There were a lot of things I was thinking that didn't make it into the conversation since other people changed the course away from the topic that I was still considering. At the end of the conversation, there was a lot that I wanted to write about.

So I'm left with this question. Do I engage in conversation to share my ideas or do I value more the opportunity to learn from others?

One could argue that I need to practice the ability to listen and formulate my response more quickly (in those brief instances between comments). One could also argue that it might be a good thing to continue thinking about ideas after a conversation is over. Perhaps developing good listening skills could lead to better/more writing and a deeper understanding of a topic. I'm going to keep pondering this as I practice listening.

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