A Good Conversationalist Listens 70% of the Time

Cheryl Catts

January 15, 2013

“We’ve all been in those conversations where someone talks, and talks, and talks and talks…” was the first thing I wrote at the top of my screen when looking at my blog assignment for today’s post. That sentence would have been followed by some snarky rhetorical question like, “Don’t we just HATE those people?”

But then I had an honest chat with myself and realized that I am guilty of doing this exact thing. Sometimes I get into a conversation and, for whatever reason, get nervous, and I just TALK. It’s easier to just chatter than to feel the awkward silence if there’s a lull in conversation. I’ll usually realize what I’m doing when I’m about 2/3 of the way through a story and I’ve completely lost interest in what I’m saying. If I feel this way, how does the other person feel?

The old adage tells us that a good conversationalist listens 70% of the time, and the same strategy applies in the virtual space. Conversation is conversation, regardless of the medium. The disadvantage to virtual conversation, however, is that social etiquette won’t require the listener to stick around if you ramble on for too long.

If our purpose in generating content is to sell, boast or preach, we must always be very conscious of the tolerance of our audience, and the medium in which we are communicating. Relationships are built when both parties feel they are receiving something of value by participating in it. This can’t be done unless we understand the needs and expectations of that audience.

As marketers, our role is to facilitate the discussion, and then learn from the participants. If we are successful, we can then perpetuate further conversation, based on what the audience indicates they are interested in talking about. Once they learn to trust us, and enjoy their relationship with us, they are more likely to be interested in listening to what we have to say.

Be aware of the purpose for each online medium. As we progress through the levels of the Web with our potential consumers we will have more liberty to be on the talking end of the relationship. But we must always be in tune with what our audience thinks and feels, so that we can provide the services and goods that they want or need.

I know all about nervous chatter. For many of us it’s in our nature to talk, even if we don’t have something to say. But our audience is talking regardless of what we do. If we listen first, then talk, what we say will be significantly more valuable.