Less is more
Smithsonian Magazine reports an online survey that asked 806 people about a conversation they recently had with an intimate friend or family member.
A second part of the study paired up 252 strangers in a lab to talk about whatever they wanted to for anywhere between one and 45 minutes.
In the online survey, two out of three later said they had wanted the conversation to end before it actually did. In the “strangers in the lab” pairings, 70% wished the conversation had been over earlier.
These results suggest that we aren’t very good at discerning the other person’s wishes about ending a conversation. Adam Mastroianni, the study’s lead author, concluded, “You might as well leave at the first time it seems appropriate, because it’s better to be left wanting more than less.”
Scott Barry Kaufman titles an article in Scientific American “The Pressing Need for Everyone to Quiet Their Egos.” His subtitle is “Why quieting the ego strengthens your best self.” His point is that we often unconsciously turn a potentially mutually-satisfying interaction into an opportunity for self-promotion, for showing off and tooting our own horn. In our terribly competitive world, the underlying goal for almost everything is winning, vaunting ourselves, making ourselves look good or better than thou.
What if we intentionally worked at bridling our egos, parking our own needs for a few minutes to concentrate fully on hearing and tending the needs of others, and so heighten the likelihood that they will go away feeling heard and understood? Would the world be better if we occasionally turned down the volume on our ego-inflating comments long enough to empathize and hear the heart sounds of others, humbly learn from them and, in so doing, possibly lighten their load just a little bit?