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What is Turn-Taking?

The Key for Good Conversations (and Teams)

Have you talked to someone that couldn't stop talking?

How did their endless chatter make you feel and what is your lasting impression of them?

Imagine an alternate conversation where you are actively bouncing off ideas with a close friend. The both of you are equally contributing ideas as speakers and listeners; if I were to have counted how much you spoke I would have found that you spoke 50% of the time. This is good, balanced turn-taking.

Turn-taking is a social science term to describe how people talk and listen to each other in a conversation. Turn-taking looks into how much each person speaks and also the frequency of exchanges between people.

Why is turn-taking important?

1. Remember the negative impression you had of the person that spoke endlessly. Bad turn-takers come off as self-centered and that is why the people they are trying to engage with are dying to find the quickest exit to the conversation. Don't be that person.

2. People need time to absorb what you are saying. Human attention spans range from 8 to 59 seconds, which means if you keep talking for over a minute it becomes increasingly difficult for people to follow you. Take a breath, observe if the other person is following, and ask them a question.

3. People like you more when you talk less and they talk more. It's true and scientifically proven that people love talking about themselves. If you are trying to impress a positive interaction with someone then give them the stage.

Apply Turn-taking

Practicing balanced turn-taking is a mindfulness activity we can all master.

In one-on-one meetings with others at work, balanced turn-taking builds strong relationships because people trust that their words will be listened to.

In team brainstorming sessions, balanced turn-taking cultivates a culture of collaboration where each team member feels safe to contribute toward the collective intelligence of a discussion.

In a personal relationship, balanced turn-taking anchors the foundation of good communication between people who want to see their love thrive.


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