It’s not always rude to talk over each other

It’s called Cooperative overlapping.

It seems self-evident. Starting to speak before another has finished violates their right to the floor. In formal contexts such as political debates, it breaches the rules. In casual conversation, it is simply rude.

But it’s not so simple. As a linguist who studies the mechanics of conversation, I’ve observed and documented that beginning to talk while another is talking can be a way of showing enthusiastic engagement with what the speaker is saying. Far from silencing them, it can be encouragement to keep going.

Highlighting content from my September 2021 newsletter.

Conversation is a dance

in which

the speaker’s activity is spatially and temporally coupled with the listener’s activity. This coupling vanishes when participants fail to communicate. Moreover, though on average the listener’s brain activity mirrors the speaker’s activity with a delay, we also find areas that exhibit predictive anticipatory responses.

via  PNAS.

Questions and their purpose

Each communicative act should have a purpose. In interviews, in meetings or in everyday conversation, what is the purpose of the questions you ask?

Here are some questions and their corresponding purposes:

1. Are you saying…?
Identifies someone’s language patterns.

2. Are you willing to…?
Tests someone’s limits.

3. Can you give me…?
Encourages examples and specifics.

4. Can you remember…?
Taps into someone’s memory.

5. Did you ask…?
Questions someone’s questions.

6. Have you considered…?
Non-threatening proposal of options.

7. Have you given any thought to…?
Suggestive, yet doesn’t sound like advice.

8. Have you thought about…?
Forces someone to think!

9. How are you constantly…?
Promotes consistency of action.

10. How are you creating…?
Proves that someone has a choice.

11. How can you become…?
Future oriented, motivational.

12. How can you make…?
Enlists someone’s creativity.

13. How could you have…?
Focused on past performance improvement.

There are 63 questions and why they work here.

The subtle art of conversation

It works best when you share the spotlight, taking turns talking and listening: Shut up and listen.
Seriously. Shut up. That means more than just quieting your mouth. It means more than simply waiting your turn to talk. It means quieting the noise in your head so that you can really hear what the other person is saying.

Now prove you were listening.
That’s right. Show me you care. Ask genuine questions that send the conversation in new directions. Talk to me about what I’m talking to you about. Otherwise, we’re just making noise.

Don’t worry, you’ll get your turn.
It’s not likely that anyone will listen to you, if you don’t listen to them first. Because when you really pay attention, and you show it, you build trust. You build rapport. You get a reputation for being smart, and thoughtful even, no matter that you’ve said very little. And suddenly people will want to hear what you have to say. (tiny gigantic)