I’m a monologist. By which I mean I’m a dedicated one-way communicator. Writing and lecturing come naturally to me. But conversation? Well… Did I mention I’m a monologist?
An old girlfriend once stared at me in disbelief and said, “You live in your head!” My first thought was, No I don’t! Then I went on to ponder that while she talked about other things which, being lost in thought, I never heard.
Flash forward a few decades: My job supervisor asked for a self-assessment. “Well,” I said, “I kind of live in my head.”
“Kind of?!” he guffawed. I guess that
kind of confirmed it.
I’ve known for a long time that my Achilles heel was conversation. It’s not that I don’t understand communication theory. Heck, I’ve taught it at the college level. And I’m a big believer in active listening. It’s just that I kind of suck at it. Instead of saying something, and then waiting for a response, I always seem to go on with my next thought…and my next thought…and my next thought…
Oh, I occasionally listen well. But occasionally isn’t enough. I care about people too much to say, “That’s just the way I am.” I want to demonstrate by my attentiveness that I care about their thoughts, their ideas, their concerns; not just to pick up on some tidbit they toss out and begin monologuing on it!
So I’ve been praying for guidance. Recently, I sensed the need for a prompt, something that would be there every time I entered a conversation. And then an acronym came to mind: TOLL, as in “pay the toll.” It stands for:
- T = Think – Do I need to say something?
- O = One – Say one thing—one thing means one thing! (I focus on this throughout)
- L = Listen – As in actively listen to their response (or ask for one)
- L = Learn – As in learn what they’re thinking, then respond accordingly (i.e. stop at the next “TOLL booth”), and possibly learn something you never would have if you’d stayed in your head! (Thank you Jane Tawel for suggesting this last step.)
Paying the TOLL seems to be making a difference (it should be a bona fide habit by the time I’m on my deathbed). How about you? If you answered “yes” to the title question…
You might want to give it try.