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Improving Your Listening Skills: Monologue or Dialogue?

by Sandy Abell, Inside Jobs Coaching Company

A few nights ago I was in a social situation where several people were talking in a group. I noticed that everyone had something to say, and they all couldn’t wait to say it. As soon as one person made a statement or shared some bit of information, another person jumped in and expressed their thoughts or experiences, without acknowledging what the first person had said. Then another would do the same.

Nobody responded to what others said except to use it as a springboard for their own monologue. As a result, nobody really heard what anyone else was saying. Each one was too busy thinking about and sharing his/her own thoughts to hear what the others in the group had said. Everyone thought they were having a dialogue, but what was really going on was a series of monologues. Very little communication or connection was taking place.

Does This Lack of Connection Sound Familiar?

Have you ever been in a situation like this? In a two-person conversation or a group setting, where people think they are communicating and sharing, but what is really happening is that everyone is talking and nobody is listening?

You may want to ask yourself if this is something you do. Do you talk, or listen? Are you attentive to the speaker, or focused internally on what you’re going to say when they stop speaking? Do you have dialogues or deliver monologues?

People often think that to be a good conversationalist you have to speak eloquently and be the focus of attention. However, the best conversationalists are the ones who ask questions, express true interest in others, listen and respond to the answers. Always remember that good conversationalists don’t talk, they listen!

What Happens When You Listen?

Whether you are conversing with your clients/customers, employees, family or friends, the greatest gift you can give people is to pay attention to what they are saying. To not only listen, but to hear. You will learn a lot about who they are and what they need, want, think or feel. As a result, the speaker will feel validated and understood, and will be much more inclined to have a positive relationship with you.

So How Can You Make People Feel Heard?

There are several things you can do to ensure you’re having a dialogue instead of a monologue. Some of them are:

  • Be fully present and pay complete attention to the speaker. This means maintain eye contact and ignore any distractions in the room.
  • Focus on what is being said, NOT what you are going to say when the speaker finishes talking.
  • Clarify what you are hearing by rephrasing what you’ve understood them to say, and asking more questions.
  • Be aware of your “body language”. Face the speaker, nod your head occasionally to show you are receiving their message, hold your body in a comfortable position with your arms relaxed, smile and maintain eye contact.
  • Be curious. Want to know more. When the speaker has finished a thought, ask a question or make a comment to encourage him/her to elaborate on what they have said.

(For a free comprehensive list of listening skills, go to our website at and click on Resources.)

So, how will you know if you’re being a good listener? How will you know if you’ve participated in a dialogue or a monologue? The test is to note when you leave a conversation what new things you’ve discovered about the people you were talking with. If you haven’t discovered anything new about them you have probably not been listening. Think about it.

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