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How Not To Tell People About Yourself

April 14, 2016

Rodney, this is Sean. He’s new on our team.

I went to dinner last night with our new team member. He’s in from out of town. These types of visits are important for us to get to know each other so that as we work together over the coming months we will already have established a relationship at a personal level.

What’s more personal than family, right? Sean has three grown kids. He has two grandchildren that live near him. I asked him all sorts of questions about his home in Kansas City, his love for the KC Royals, his family of course. We talked for hours at dinner and at a minor league baseball game after. 

Sean’s a pretty interesting guy. 

Most people think I’m a pretty interesting guy. I have 13 children. Ten of my children are adopted. Between work and adoptions I’ve been all over the world, China, India, South America, Europe, the Middle East. I’ve been told I’m one of the most interesting people in my circle of friends.

I didn’t share any of that. When the subject of grandchildren came up, I mentioned that I have three grandchildren, with one on the way. And that they live near enough that I get to see them often. Even then, I skipped the awkward part of the conversation explaining that one grandchild was stillborn, so I only get to visit with two of them. 

It’s not that I was trying to hide anything. I love to talk about my kids and my family. I love to tell stories. I love to talk. (Says the guy who writes a blog. . .) But, I also like to have conversations. Conversations are different than two people taking turns speaking. A conversation has a direction and a flow to it. 

I also have ADD. People with Attention Deficit Disorder often have a hard time holding normal conversations. We think that whatever we are thinking at the moment must be interesting to whoever is around us. We tend to dominate the conversation and babble. 

Knowing this about myself, I do lots of self censoring. The funny thing is that I think whatever story I want to tell is probably going to be interesting to the person I’m talking to. I have received lots of positive feedback in my life that I’m an amusing conversationalist. And yet, I also know that if I talk as much as I would like, I will be talking too much. 

So, I censor. I listen. (Even though I really want to talk.) I ask lot so of questions. Because, here’s the key: everyone likes to talk about themselves. Everyone has interesting stories to tell. I’m going to work with Sean for a long time. At some point, Sean will figure out that I have a houseful of kids from all around the world. He will probably find it interesting. But, if I had told all my stories last night, I’d not know anything more about Sean than I did at the beginning for the evening. 

The purpose of our conversation was to build relationships of trust. We needed to establish a common language that we can draw on over the coming months. They’ll be plenty of time to share my stories, but last night was my only chance to hear Sean’s stories in person. 

Active listening can be just as valuable as telling an interesting story. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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