Do You Want to Have Deeper Conversations?

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by John Braland
IMF President

You want to be heard, I want to be heard, everyone wants to be heard. When we are heard we feel connected and valued. Unfortunately, most people talk quite a bit, but are heard very little. That could explain why we feel so disconnected to others even if we talk to each other on a regular basis. According to statistics:

  • Most people spend between 70 and 80% of their day engaged in some form of communication. About 55% of their time is devoted to listening.

  • The average person hears between 20,000 and 30,000 words during the course of a 24-hour period.

  • Although we hear 20,000-30,000 words, our brain can only remember about 17-25% of the things we listen to.

  • Your words only convey about 7% of what you’re trying to say. The other 93% is communicated through facial expressions and the tone of your voice.

  • Recent research reveals that men only use half their brain to listen while women engage both lobes. Maybe women are better listeners after all! (, accessed 10/16/2018)  


The question is, how can a person have deeper conversations? The key is to learn how to listen so that the person who is communicating feels heard and understood. Here are nine insights that will help you to have deeper conversations if you practice them. 


1. Listen with intention. The key to effective listening is to listen intently. Simply put, pay attention to the person who is communicating with you.

 2. Be fully present in the conversation. Don’t try to listen to the person and the television, surf the web, or play video games. Don’t listen and answer emails or try to text and connect. It just doesn’t work and you will irritate the person communicating.    

 3. Ask insightful questions. If you are paying attention, you will be able to ask pertinent questions that will broaden your understanding of what is being communicated.   

 4. Ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand. If the story or information doesn’t make sense, ask clarifying questions. This shows you want to learn and are interested in collecting all the information accurately.  

 5. Give conversations time. Don’t rush the person who is talking. People are always in a hurry, but you cannot rush deep and meaningful conversations. If you don’t have time to get into a deep conversation at the moment, ask to get together again at a better time when you can be fully present and engaged. 

 6. Be aware of your nonverbal listening postures. Folded arms give the vibe that you are angry or close minded. Holding your groin indicates you feel insecure. When listening, pay attention to all of your facial expressions, body postures, and hand motions. You can inadvertently look bored and come across uncaring just by looking at your watch. Allow your whole body to engage in the conversation. This is done by facing the person talking, putting your hands in a natural position, and keeping your legs on the floor.        

 7. Make eye contact. When you make eye contact with a person it tells them that they have your full attention. Make eye contact often. 

 8. Minimize distractions. If the T.V. is on in the background, loud music is playing, or if you are fidgeting with your cell phone, it will be hard to hear the other person. Your attention will be divided and you will only heard a small portion of the message being communicated.

 9. Repeat back the information you heard to make sure it is accurate. This is an old trick I teach in pre-marriage class. Once the person has finished talking, repeat the highlights of what they said back in a summary form. This will help them to know you connected with them. If they need to clarify some of the details after your recap, they will have the chance.

 Everyone can become a better listener by applying these nine insights to their conversations. In doing so, you will take your communication to the next level with others. They will feel heard and understood, isn’t that something we all really want?

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