Get Off My Trampoline
(Contributed by Mitch Greene)
Have you ever told a great story, expecting an awesome reaction from the person you’re talking to, but instead you get a story of theirs? It sucks!
When I was younger, I had a trampoline in my backyard that I loved. As a normal kid, I wanted my friends to enjoy my trampoline with me. The feeling of having someone land at that perfect time only to launch me even higher made me so happy. I had one friend who was a lot bigger than I was. He thought it was so funny to jump at the perfect time so that the trampoline would be coming up as I was coming down. When I landed, my knees would buckle, and I would collapse. The feeling was something like getting the wind stolen from under your wings. It was deflating, discouraging and took the fun from bouncing. Not to mention, it hurt!
Communication is kind of like the trampoline. We have control as the speaker. However, there is something in communication that scholars call launchpad listening. This is what I described earlier. It is taking a topic, word, idea, sentence or really anything from the speaker and using it as a launchpad for us to start talking. It steals the thunder from the speaker and gives us the opportunity to talk. Exactly like when my friend would stunt my bounce. Having me landing at that moment would bounce him instead of me.
It’s terrible, but everybody does it. It is normal for people to look for something to talk about while “listening” because silence is the enemy. They will look for any way possible way to fill the empty space with words, but in doing so they are not absorbing anything the current speaker is saying or giving them the satisfaction of a reaction. It is normal, but it is not correct or kind.
Remember how I said that some kids would bounce me even higher and I loved it? We can do that, too, in communication. When someone is telling us a story or just speaking in general, we can communicate to them that we are engaged, interested and listening closely. We can bounce them higher and make them feel good by making eye contact, nodding, smiling, and really listening.
Everybody deserves to be bounced a little higher, but nobody can do it alone. Be the one to bounce them.