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An Email from a Reader

The following is an email I received from James, a visitor to this site.

Dr. C.,
I found “Tell Me About Yourself: The Power of Curiosity” very interesting. As I was reading it, I realized that when the opportunity to talk with others presents itself, I tend to dominate the conversation: “I-ME-MINE-yadda, yadda, yadda.”  It takes a conscious effort to hold back and allow those who are engaging me to improvise as well. I have difficulty allowing conversations to unfold because I tend to talk non-stop and hold forth.
Since reading your blog, I have made a commitment to listen to my wife, and I’ve been offering her the time to “unload” after her workday is done. I have no idea if it makes any difference to her, but it has become my first priority to ask her about her day and to block out all interruptions until she’s finished filling me in.
She and I have not been close for a while, and I figure at the very least I need to offer my interest. I interject as little as possible, and only then to display understanding and empathy or whatever. I make a supreme effort NOT to interject anything about me or my day unless asked. Then it is just the facts and back to what she has to say. So far it hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference in the way she feels about me, but still, it’s been kind of a cool little experiment.

You’re really on to something important and you’re not alone.  A lot of folks have to learn not to dominate conversations (Hey!  Is there anything quite so lovely as the sound of our own voice?).  The experiment you’re running with your wife is a really good one. Over time I would guess she will come to appreciate your efforts.  Given that there has been some distance between the two of you, I’m not surprised at her lack of immediate appreciation.  She probably has her guard up. I suggest doing your experiment without expecting anything in return.  Dropping your expectation is difficult but essential.  People always know when another’s behavior is designed to get something in return, and they’ll resist the pressure to do so. Good going, James.    

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