Five Practical Tips for Successful Conversations

If you talk less, you’ll get more from your interactions with others, says author Dan Lyons. Here’s his advice on how to shut up and listen.

Author: Michelle Russell       

Author photo with book cover

Active listening is “a lot of work,” says author Dan Lyons in his new book, STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World.

“Shutting up should be the easiest thing in the world,” Dan Lyons writes in his book, STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World. “All you have to do is nothing, right? But, in fact, not talking requires a lot of concentration. It’s probably more difficult than talking. It’s draining. For an overtalker like me, it can be almost painful.”

Lyons writes that he approaches “STFU as a daily practice, like meditation or yoga.” Here are his five ways to STFU, excerpted from his book:

When possible, say nothing. Early 20th-century humorist Will Rogers once said you should never miss a good chance to shut up.

Master the power of the pause. Take a breath. Pause. Let the other person process what you’ve just said.

Quit social media. The first cousin of overtalking is overtweeting, and it is almost impossible not to fall into the trap. [Social media] platforms are designed to get you addicted. If you can’t quit completely, at least dial it back.

Seek out silence. Information overload makes us constantly agitated and overstimulated, which leads to health problems and can even shorten our lives. Detach. Unplug. Spend time without your phone. Research suggests silence might even help us grow brain cells.

Learn how to listen. Being a great listener is considered such an important business skill that CEOs go to boot camps to learn how to do it. And it’s hard work, because listening should be an active endeavor rather than a passive one. Instead of just hearing someone, active listening means blocking out everything else and paying fierce attention to what the other person is saying. Nothing makes people happier than the feeling of being authentically heard and seen.

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene. Excerpted and condensed from STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World, © 2023 by Dan Lyons, published by Henry Holt and Company

Listen Up

This article and those listed below are part of Convene’s January/February 2024 issue cover and CMP Series story package.

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