conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Repeat, I say, Repeat Others’ Words

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Weird Kid’s Trick that Boomerangs (Boomerangs!) in Your Own Brain10252013-original

Someone told me about Lifehacker not long ago and I’ve been trying all sorts of the suggestions that flow through their stream of articles. But Melanie Pinola’s recent article “Make Better Conversations by Repeating the Other Person’s Words”  caught my attention both for what she wrote and how the Lifehacker community responded:

If you want to be great at making and continuing conversations, you have to be a good listener. Barking Up the Wrong Tree’s Eric Barker points out one way to do active listening that hostage negotiators use to build rapport: repeat the last few words your companion said.

She goes on to give a very few specifics about repeating the last two or three words–it is enough to make you think about your own conversations. But the commentary that pops up after the article is almost as compelling as the article itself, with different folks chiming in by parroting the last two or three words. It’s actually not that easy to differentiate true interest from sarcastic banter. It’s all sorta hilarious.

Of course, kids learn repeating words early as a way to drive parents and siblings to the hard edge of sanity. I did it. My kids did it to me. But the surprise is that repeating others words—when not done with ill will or as a bit of customer service trickery, is quite cyclical: what you say again and again finds its way back into your own brain.

I have a client meeting today and I know that at some point I will repeat what my client says. Aloud. It almost always happens. It’s a basic part of understanding—it lets the other person know I am listening and it also gives me a chance to try on the words/concepts my client offers, to see if they make sense coming from someone else’s mouth.

We need more active listening in this world—but less repeating as a parlor trick.

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Image credit: crazytales562 via Lifehacker

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Written by kirkistan

October 25, 2013 at 7:28 am

One Response

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  1. […] when your company really wants to hear (your firm does want to make things right, yes?). Repeating what the person said is common in customer service circles these days and is a useful tactic in the […]


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