Do We Listen To Reply?
One of the key fundamental questions in the modern era of humans is this: Do we ever listen to understand the other, or listen just so that we can force our opinions on them? Do we give them the space and respect they deserve, or do we allow no room for opinions to flourish? I myself am a victim of the latter sometimes, but they are merely borne out of circumstances and isolated situations, not a regularity. In a society with an educated, knowledgeable population, what should be our motive to listen?
Consider Your Environment
In an urban setting with a fast life full of stress, money and ego all intertwined in some complex standard of life that fortunate folks have been able to experience, we come to a face-off with our fellow peers, relatives and friends when it comes to talking to them and imposing our points of view on them rather than listen to theirs. First off, we need to look at the environment you are living in. If our social environment is such that you have been brought up to have an opinion of your own rather than listen to other people’s opinion and force yours on them, then it is plausible that the minute you come across a person conversing with you, you will probably wait till he finishes before going on your own tirade on why your point of view is better to his.
Consider your physical environment. City-dwellers with better access to income and education will likely have more knowledge than town folks, leading to greater egos. Rural folks with more access to nature will have time to dwell on their thoughts more than a fast-pace urban settler, leading to lesser ego. This is my view. It might be simplistic but I think it is fair to say there is some element of truth to it.
Analysis of the situation
How do we fair against our peers? Do we excel in speech? Do we get emotional? Or do we simply keep silent, and expect the other to ride a conversation through. If you are intelligent, you will probably want to understand where the other person is coming from. If you have beef with your peer, then you will move towards an argument or a inevitable confrontation. Nothing like the good old heated exchange between two people to set things up for a fight.
Observe their body language. You have ample time! You might think you are limited to a few seconds but once you are in your zone, and absolutely confident in your own body language, you will see that those precious few seconds before you reply to a person can be an infinite amount of time to observe how that person interacts with you. Arms folded? Probably a defensive-minded person. Avoid a debate if you can. I know of a friend who is like this, and who is also a very logical person, so most of the time I end up on the losing end of an argument because he uses logic more effectively than I do, and because I cannot prepare my brain as productively as he does when talking. If he or she is moving their hands about, that is a sign of insecurity. Even I do it sometimes with sudden exchanges with rather distant people. It is typical human nature to distract the other person with your hand gestures. Personally, I believe that keeping your hands to yourself and only occasionally moving them about for explaining certain subjects better is the best way to go about conversations.
Make eye contact. It will tell you a lot of their mindset and help you read their pattern of thoughts. It will also ensure that you have ample confidence in yourself, while you are making them more aware of their presence. I personally feel that if a person feels awkward through eye contact, let them be. It is not your headache to ponder upon. It means they do not have enough self-confidence in their body language and they feel more aware of their body language which makes them feel awkward. It is typically their own problem that they need to sort out, but be nice at the same time in these situations. be mild-toned and well-mannered.
Another good way to analyze the situation is to go take a walk with the person you are talking to. That way, not only will you have something to do, but you will also keep yourself busy rather than just standing in one spot which might get in any case get awkward after a while. I find that taking a walk helps you to listen to the person better. If you listen to a person better, then you have a chance to replying to whatever they are saying rather than what you feel like saying.
Once you have analyzed your conversant well-enough to judge how they are interacting with you, you should proceed to reply to them in the norm they expect you to: point out examples from their own conversation and give them a reason to believe that you are replying to them in all sincerity. Make them understand that you are replying to them based on what you have listened, not based on your own ego. Be the difference. Be a good listener.
Having been in situations where you know your ego gets the better of you, it is wise to start being a different person and creating a positive perception of you towards others. You are who you portray you are, to others. Start being the portrayal of a person who is willing to listen for the sake of the person you are listening to, not to dictate your own point of view to others.