Communcation Challenge Feedback: Lessons Learned from a Toastmaster

This weekend, we challenged you to listen more intently during conversations. How did that go? We would love to hear from you and learn how your communication skills are improving. Since we are asking you to engage with us and share your journey toward better communication, we believe we should also share our growth with you. The story below is from one of our members.

I joined Toastmasters to become a better conversationalist. I have ADD and often allow myself to interrupt others so I don’t lose a thought or try to finish their thoughts in an attempt to hurry the conversation to the “good parts.” I also take forever to make a point because I include too many details. As such, I have been the person who others sometimes don’t want to talk to because they know it will take forever and I will interrupt them a million times. I wanted to improve my ability to allow a thought to pass or find a way to note it without interrupting conversation, and to enjoy listening to the “not so great parts” of a conversation as well as the juicy, interesting ones.

I have learned through Toastmasters that interrupting people causes them to feel that what I say is more important than what they are saying. It tells the speakers that I don’t value them but just want to say what I have to say. This is not my character. Most who know me know that I sincerely love and want to help others. In a coaching setting, I am an amazing listener because I need the details to offer feedback on thoughts to explore, actions to consider, and possibilities to examine. I have learned to apply these principles to my conversation and listen more and talk less. However, on Monday I learned that I have not progressed as far as I wanted to by now!

Monday morning I was talking with friends who I have been building relationships with over the past few years. We got off to a not-so-great start because I prejudged them based upon one action. As such, each time we would talk, I would try to hurry conversations and ensure they didn’t try to do this one action again. Also, I would jump on them and make assumptions when the conversation seemed to be heading in that direction. Whiles we still were cordial with one another and supported each other’s growth, this has harmed our friendships and caused us to become a bit standoffish with one another. The purpose of our conversation was to clear the air and get a new start.

My friends shared with me that they felt I needed to talk less and listen more, as well as not jump to conclusions about what others were going to say. While they could see progress over the time we have known one another, they still see where I can improve. I agreed with this assessment and appreciated that they saw progress. What I found most interesting about the conversation was that I learned the reason they committed the action I didn’t like was out of passion. The very thing I like to cultivate in others, I had shut down in these individuals because I didn’t like what they were passionate about! This hurt me because I realized that my judging this action caused me to be even worse at interrupting and trying to finish sentences.

I value these friendships and their feedback. It taught me the following things:

  • I need to ask more questions when I feel others are trying to communicate a message I disagree with – such as finding out their passions, experiences, and motives.
  •  It is good to have an understanding of where you are at when you set any goal. I don’t have a “conversation” meter that says I interrupted 1,000 times and now do so only 500. I don’t have a chart that tells me I only talk too much in 45% of conversations instead of 100%. This feedback I received from friends now helps me to gauge my progress over the next year.
  • It is good to have friends who are willing to share honest feedback with you so you can always improve.

I enjoy being a Toastmaster member because it provides me the tools I need to apply feedback such as this to my life. I can read the Toastmasters magazines, talk with my mentor and club members, and learn new ways to become a better conversationalist and listener. I am able to receive open and helpful feedback that I can apply in the “real world” with friends and colleagues.

This story can inspire us all to ensure we set good communication goals and listen intently during conversations. When we ask questions, we learn where others stand on various issues. When we are quiet, we hear their thoughts and can consider their hearts. Sometimes we assume ill intent because of baggage we carry.

At Colonel Ledyard Toastmasters’ meetings, we want everyone to come in and learn how to consider each conversation in its own merit. Instead of jumping to conclusions, we want to encourage you to hear a full thought before dismissing it or agreeing to it. We want to encourage you to learn how to speak with power and persuasion so when you disagree with someone you do so and allow them to keep their dignity. Join us at our meeting tomorrow night to meet our members and see how even being a Toastmaster doesn’t mean you are a perfect communicator, but means you on your way to becoming a better, more seasoned listening and speaker.

Next meeting: Thursday, July 19, 2012 @ Bill Library, Ledyard, CT