“Hey guess what, I had my performance evaluation and I got great feedback from my manager.”
“Yeah, those are such a waste of time. I get good remarks every time but I’m not sure they even really look at your performance.”
We have all had these and they can go a thousand different ways,. You excitedly tell friends that you got a new car and hear, “Oh me, too” or “Mine is a 2016”. Maybe you share that you took your kids to Disney this summer only to quickly get back, “Oh that’s nice we took our family to Italy.” These one-up comments are demoralizing, infuriating, and for the most part unintentional!
I don’t think anyone starts a conversation with you looking for ways to one up you or to shut you down, but they do so out of 2 very human characteristics. 1) Our desire to hear and tell stories, and 2) personal insecurity. Self-admittedly I am terrible about this. You can ask most of the people that know me well and I have a story for just about anything and I have a really bad tendency to hear your story and then immediately want to tell you my story. If you fall into this category, STOP!!! This act, however innocent, destroys connection.
Most people will be gracious in the beginning but if this is a habit for you, it will not be long until the people around you start resenting the fact that you are stealing their thunder.
I think this topic, which I classify as a connection issue, can be resolved by practicing intentional or active listening and becoming aware that you’re doing it in the first place. Intentional listening is an art form and one that you can practice and have to practice to master. My colleague James told me one time, “God gave me 2 ears and 1 mouth, and only one of those closes.” There is a lot of wisdom in that statement but let’s unpack the underlying meaning of what means to be an active listener the Caleb Bagwell way. *Warning, I neither confirm nor claim these are the best techniques for active listening. I just know they work for me.
- Stop preparing your rebuttal: I think it’s like this, when someone is talking, especially in a business situation or when meeting someone new – you are so concerned about making a good impression or sounding smart that you start preparing your response in your head after you hear the other person’s first sentence. I believe that we also have the unnecessary fear of awkward silence. Would it be ridiculous to listen to the full statement and then take 3 seconds to formulate your response? NO. It makes sense. Active listening means that you need to stop thinking ahead and immerse yourself in what the other party is saying. Focus and be patient.
- Ask questions: When someone is sharing news with you or engaging in a conversation, make a conscious effort to ask questions. This will automatically stop you from injecting your stories into their moment. It also helps you dig deeper and makes your speaker feel that you are really engaged in their story.
- Give them their time: Not all conversations fall into this category but when you have a coworker, friend, spouse or employee that comes to you with exciting news or a good story, say to yourself, “Not my time.” I literally have to do this to remind myself that regardless of how good my story is or even how similar, I need to let them have their time. You can tell them your story later or wait till they ask you about yours but giving people the attention they deserve without making it about you is important. It builds rapport and respect.
There are many more tricks to active listening, in fact there are entire books written about it. Another quick trick is counting how many time you say, “I” in a conversation. This one made me feel bad when I tried it, I will be honest. The point to all of it is that in a world where everyone is becoming more self-absorbed than ever, it is necessary to make sure that we caring enough about the people around us to listen intently, give them their deserved moments, and try connecting deeper with people by listening and not one upping!
Caleb Bagwell/Employee Education Specialist
John Maxwell Certified Leadership Coach
Grinkmeyer Leonard Financial
Toll-Free: 866.695.5162 / Office: 205.970.9088
Birmingham: 1950 Stonegate Drive / Suite 275 / Birmingham, AL 35242