Generally speaking, women are better talkers than men. Their verbal skills develop very quickly at an early age. I have 5 girls and the pace of conversation around the dinner table is rapid. I have to say, “Time out. Can you pass the mustard?” They pause, and then go back at it.
My late grandfather and dad had an interesting way of communicating. They would look at each, and one would let out a “Ehhhu.” The other would echo with an “Ehhu” and they both would chuckle. I still don’t know what “Ehhu” means, but I know they were connecting in their own way.
Today, when my wife wants to engage in conversation I find myself wanting give an “Ehhu.” I think other men are the same. We tend to grunt, sigh, snort, and sniff instead of talking it out. And there’s the source of frustration in a marriage relationship.
Good news. You can develop your conversation skills. Here’s a little idea that might help.
Having a healthy conversation is a lot like playing a friendly round of tennis. In tennis the object is to volley. A good talk has the same object.
So, serve up an easy, open-ended question. Be prepared. It may take 2 or 3 questions before a good volley gets going. Don’t get discouraged if the first serve isn’t returned.
If you’re served a question, respond and the hit the ball back with a question of your own. The partner will hopefully answer and return your hit with another question. The goal? See how long you can keep the verbal volley going.
Sometimes you miss the ball with an awkward response, a delay, or an “Ehhu.” That’s OK. Pick the ball up and serve it again. The aim in is not a perfect performance, but real, human interaction. It may feel awkward at first, but embrace the awkward. Your skills will grow in time.
A few more words of advice. If you want to volley with your spouse or friend, don’t spike the ball. A verbal spike is a slam. It’s not fun to play conversational tennis with someone who only likes to slam.
Also, remember you’re not a serving machine, shooting balls like a howitzer. Refrain from peppering your partner with 10 questions at once. The overload will clog the conversational pipeline. The average dude will not know where to swing.
Give it a shot. Take some time today to play some conversational tennis.