A genuine conversation is above all a two-way street, whether it’s brainstorming exciting ideas, or clearing the air. To accomplish that, I make it a habit to periodically check in with the other person, ensuring they’re actively engaged in the exchange.

Here are 5 clues you may have inadvertently closed one lane:

  1. They’re looking at you as if you are speaking a foreign language.
  2. You’re using bigger and bigger hand gestures to illustrate your points.
  3. You forgot your train of thought.
  4. They’re looking repeatedly at their smart phone.
  5. You’re explaining the same thing in three different ways.

On the other hand, you’re doing a great job keeping the two-way street open when:

  1. You’re giving them room to answer without interruption.
  2. You’re genuinely curious about their reactions by asking open-ended questions.
  3. You’re open to being wrong in your assumptions.
  4. You’re actively listening to their perspective.
  5. Keep checking in with this person to see how things are going. Their gestures, body language and facial expressions will let you know if you’ve lost them, or kept their interest.

And if a lane closes up, don’t worry. It happens to the best of us. Simply stop, take a breath, and ask your colleague what’s going on for them. Be ready to listen.

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