It has been my observation that people are not very good listeners and they are usually not interested in other people unless it has some direct bearing on their own lives. When they ask you how you are, they expect you to say, "I'm fine, thanks, and how are you?" They don't expect you to really tell them how you are doing. And if, by chance, you should make the egregious mistake of actually answering the question, they are often thinking about what they are going to respond before you finish talking because they don't care enough about what you are saying.
I once read about a woman's embarrassing moment when she was having dinner with a man who was a boring conversationalist. He had been going on and on about his poor health and his latest surgery. The woman's mind was starting to drift, and in a fuzzy moment when he stopped talking, she asked, "And did you live?"
As a homework assignment, I've often asked clients to meet up with one of their friends or love interests and after they have greeted each other, see how long it takes for the other person to ask what is going on in their life. One of my clients was astounded. A friend she hadn't seen in almost a year went on and on about the events in her life and didn't ask my client a thing about herself. At the end of the evening, they parted company without my client having said a single word about herself. If I had to take a guess, I'd say that at least 90 percent of the people who did this assignment found themselves wondering why they were in a relationship with someone who wasn't really interested in them.
A friend of mine was telling me about a date he had and we discovered that she was one of my clients. This man has a brilliant mind and is interested in everything; my client's level of intelligence was average and she wasn't interested in much of anything. The next day my friend called to tell me about the fascinating date he had with her and what an interesting conversationalist she is. I asked him who did the talking. He's one of these people who analyzes everything so he had to stop and think. Finally, he said that he couldn't remember anything about her because she had him talking about himself. I thought it was brilliant strategy on her part but as it turned out, it wasn't strategy; she just couldn't think of anything to talk about so she asked him about himself.
I once had a client who was so self-absorbed that in the midst of a conversation she would say, "Can we change the subject?" and then she would redirect the conversation back to herself. The first few times I was stunned. Thereafter, I didn't bother finishing my sentences because I knew she would never know the difference; her listening skills ended at the last mention of her name or her problem. She did this with everyone so it would have been pointless to take it personally.
If a person wants to find out if someone is interested in him and/or what he has to say, he should start to recount an event that has nothing to do with the other person and, in the middle of his tale, he should stop talking about it. More often than not, most people will go on to talk about something else and not even realize that he hadn't finished what he was talking about. It's an interesting experiment and has been known to produce some interesting results.
Written by: Connie H. Deutsch has been a business consultant and personal advisor to clients from around the world. Photo: Andrew C.