Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chic Habits: Talking Less and Listening More

My last Chic Habits post was quite beneficial. Although I wasn't perfect at it, I noticed I did stop and think more about speaking in a positive, rather than a negative way, whether it was self-talk, speaking of others etc. A couple of times I spoke ill of others, but I think it was well-deserved. Is that a justification? Not perfect, but making the effort. This will be ongoing for me.

My other chic habit from last time was picking up and tidying as I go. I have been doing this more too. Not perfect again, but noticing and doing, more. As with all of my chic habits so far (perhaps with the exception of the early face-wash, I still can't get into that habit), I hope to keep them up as time goes on.

My next chic habit I want to focus on is:

Talking less, and being a better listener. I come from a family where the women are well-known for their talking prowess, and I am not joking. I'm really scared I will become like that too and I have asked my husband to tell me honestly if this starts being the case.

So in the meantime, I am trying to babble less, talk when I actually have something intelligent to say and not just fill a gap.

Also to consider what the other person is doing. I have spouted out a long-winded, one-sided conversation to my husband in the car and at the end of it when I get no response he snaps back into it and says 'sorry, I was just listening to that radio interview'.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this, was he too polite to say? Did I not notice him leaning into the radio speakers to hear over me? Should I have tested the water with a sample question? Was I just sitting there in the car going blah, blah, blah with every thought that ever came into my head spewing out of my mouth?

The listening better side of it should go hand-in-hand with talking less. I have a terrible habit of interrupting people when they're talking, it is to do with what they're talking about and adding to the conversation but I still do it, recognise it and then feel bad.

I got the shock of my life once when the person I was talking to stopped abruptly every time I spoke. And because I interject things, this was often. It was quite disconcerting and I haven't forgotten it. It felt like she was trying to show me up, but really she was just being polite by letting me speak. I still cringe when I think about that conversation.

I think it comes from growing up in a talking family (the female side, my dad talks about once every three months) - you have to get your words in where you can. If you didn't interject you'd never get your point across. So now when I'm talking with 'normal' people, I try to modify this.

I have also noticed this with others (people I'm not related to this time). There are some folk who simply like the sound of their own voice. They can happily speak monologue for thirty minutes plus (it feels like hour) and you literally will not have said one word. When you do, or ask a question, it's ridden over and ignored.

These people may wonder why they are often avoided by others, it's because the other person doesn't want to get 'caught' and 'trapped'! Please dear God shoot me if I ever become like this. The starting point is in my genes and I have to manage it.

So, in summary, I am attempting to undo 39 years of talking and listening behaviour. Wish me luck. Forgive me if I sound like a drama queen today.

If you'd care to join me, please let us know what chic habits you would like to bring into your life, either on your own blog or in the comments here.


  1. Fiona - Your post is quite thought provoking. There are so many levels of listening. There's listening to the words people say, listening to body language, listening to what is not said. The fact that you've made this a goal, will certainly go a long way to enhance your listening skills, but don't underestimate the ability to "babble." Making small talk is an asset that can put people at ease. It's not called the gift of gab for nothing.

  2. Fiona - I am just like you! I'm afraid I interrupt a lot as well. It IS to do with adding to the conversation, plus I'm always afraid that I'll forget what I want to say so I have to say it right away. However, I do recognize it too and am trying to do better. I agree with Karin about the uses and benefits of small talk.

  3. Hi!

    I saw your chic habits post a little while ago and thought it was a great idea! There are many things I want to make regular habits in my life that I seem to do once or for a week and then drop off..... After reading about your list I decided to think of some habits and - like you - slowly add more each week, with the aim of making them habits by repetition. What's that old saying? "It takes 21 days to make a habit?" I am trying.....

    Anyway, thus far I have (and I'm embarrassed to list some! as it shows what I haven't been doing....):

    1) when I come home from work, instead of launching straight into preparing dinner or other home chores, take 10 minutes to have a drink and enjoy the transition from work to home
    (I find this to be lovely! For some reason I feel so much more refreshed before starting the second half of the day)

    2) be sure to check my makeup throughout the day - little touchups to be sure it stays looking good

    3) leave my desk at work each night clear and organised with a "to do" list of the important tasks...instead of those tasks all scattered all over the work desk


  4. I agree with Karin, very thought provoking. I think when you pay attention to others you can pick up on social, nonverbal cues that maybe they aren't listening or aren't intersted. Body language books really helped me learn about this. I have so many items to work on for my own personal chic habits list, but right now my top one is POSTURE and modulating the tone and volume of my voice. (I'd like to blame it on my Italian blood!) I also laughed so hard at your vivid term "talking prowess"

  5. omg, "speak monologue"....so funny! I know people who do this and on occasion if I'm passionate about something will do it too. I need to check myself. What a very honest and insightful post!

  6. I have started to be aware of the personal details I tell people. I'm very open and need to be a little more discerning with all the vivid descriptive details in my life. It's just that there are certain things on my mind, and this particular matter always comes up, so it takes a great deal of restraint to not mention it.

    On the other hand, I'm not an interrupter. I would let you go on and on as I smile and nod!

  7. Karin, your comment is a good one (and welcome). By listening better and talking less you can read the non-verbal signals. Someone who is talking non-stop misses those.

    I agree small talk is valuable, and I struggle with successful small talk. What I have noticed about others I admire is that they ask questions rather than 'talking'. So small talk should really be named small questions, don’t you think?

    Patricia, welcome. I always wondered who visited from Hungary! Do you think people realise we’re trying to be helpful when we interrupt? I always worry about forgetting something too. It is a good discipline to let people speak and then reply. This is the challenge for us.

    SG, thanks for your great comment and welcome. I love your three habits. It’s awful when you feel so confident at work and then in the loo you notice in the mirror you have some mascara under your eye or a pen smudge on your face. Quick checks are vital and you will always look polished.

    Tidying your desk at night is a good one too. It always starts you off in a better frame of mind in the morning. I will try to do this every night. Merci!

    Kristi, posture and a lovely voice are both great chic habits. I often try to make my voice lower as I can get very high-pitched and girly. And I’d like my voice to be quieter too.

    Stephanie, I know. When I’m passionate about something it’s hard to stop me too.

    J, I’ve been aware of this also. After reading the Mystique chapter in Anne Barone’s Techniques book it make me think of being a little more ‘mysterious’.

    Smiling and nodding is a much better way to behave in a conversation!

  8. I'm the same as you and Patricia, interrupting because I'm afraid I'll forget or that the conversation will move on and I don't have made my point. Unfortunately I don't realize what I've done until after the fact. And it's not as though what I have to say is so all-fired important, it's just my two cents worth so I feel part of the conversation and not a mere onlooker. This is something I should be more conscious of as well.

    But I'm with Kristi, my first one should also be posture. All those years of my Dad poking me between the shoulder blades didn't stick with me. I end up with back pain if I'm on my feet too much, and it's all related to terrible posture.


  9. Jackie, it's always 'after the fact' that you think of how you could have handled it better. We are only human after all!

    With posture I always imagine the string from the top of my head pulling me up.

  10. Your posts are helping me to make my own changes -- it's nice knowing that you and other women are out there, improving or rediscovering yourselves a little every day. It helps to think of you when I get discouraged or pulled back by old mental habits. One of the changes I'm trying to make is to know that I am not now, nor will I ever be, PERFECT -- and that is more than fine. (For too many years I believed I was the worst girl ever . . . ) I am human, complex, smart, grumpy, funny, clever, angry, et al. As are we all! I'm not trying to be perfect, just trying to be the truest me. Thanks! Katherine Louise

  11. Another chic habit: Taking care of myself! Today I am visiting spa at the Aveda Training Institute. It's a spa day for me, my sister-in-law, and my daughter who is expecting a baby any day now.
    We are having facials, manis and pedis and having our hair styled. All four services for less that $60 US. The technicians are students, but very good.
    It's a girls' day out so will end in a lunch at a nice restaurant! Can't wait.

  12. Fiona,
    I discovered you through a link on Stephanie's C'est Si Bon--I love your blog! Can't believe I didn't know about it, and can't wait to read more.

  13. Katherine Louise, I have the perfection thing too. It is easy to get caught up in it and feel like a failure because you are not perfect every single day in every single area.

    Striving to be your best and enjoying life at the same time, that's what I'm aiming for. Thanks so much for your comment and nice to have you here.

    Dot, taking care of yourself is a tres chic habit. I am so envious of your Aveda day out! I'm sure you will be posting the details so we can enjoy it along with you?

    Annecychic, welcome! Great to have you visit.

  14. hi fiona,

    i'm just back from my retreat and am catching up with you.

    i would say that one of the most important things my retreat taught me was to be a better listener. i, like you found myself interrupting more often than i would have liked. it was a habit i found hard to break. perhaps now i'll have a better chance at eliminating this personal flaw.

    i'm just happy to be home.


  15. Welcome back Janet! I'm full of admiration on your silent retreat attendance.

    If I went to one of these I'd probably be kicked out of my talkative family: I would be considered anti-family!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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