Don’t Steal the Show

Posted by Todd Smith

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Does it bother you when someone thoughtlessly cuts you off in traffic? How about when you’ve been waiting in an endlessly busy line and someone waltzes right in and slips ahead near the front?

When these things happen to me, I usually end up thinking something along the lines of, “Hey buddy, I’m just as busy as you!” or “Oh really, you think you’re more important than the rest of us?”

Sure, these responses may sound a bit silly after the fact, but we all have similar reactions when someone barges in and unfairly imposes their agenda on us.

Resist the Impulse to Interrupt

It’s no different when it comes to communication. When someone we’re listening to is sharing something that’s important to them, we need to resist stealing their show. In other words, don’t interrupt, don’t cut them off, and don’t take over the conversation by sharing your good news or similar experience in an attempt to relate to whatever the person is talking about.

For example, if a friend has just returned from a vacation to Hawaii and he’s excited to tell you about his vacation and kayaking adventure with his son, it’s not appropriate for you to steal his show and describe your recent trip to Bermuda. Let him enjoy the moment and fully express his experience. He’ll appreciate you as a friend for doing so.

Likewise, if someone you know is going through a difficult time and they are sharing their grief with you, there’s no need to steal their show and interject how you felt when you experienced something similar. Simply allow the person to communicate their feelings. Listening quietly is actually the best way to show you care about the person and what they’re going through.

The reason it’s so important to resist the urge to steal the show is because it selfishly takes the focus away from them and puts it on us. I don’t think it’s anyone’s specific intent to be a show-stealer, but I hear it in almost every group conversation I overhear.

Relate to the Person, Not the Moment

Showing empathy (sharing the emotions and feelings of another) is one of the ways we relate to other people, and it’s a good thing. In fact, most of us have learned through experience that it’s one of the best ways to build strong relationships.  Nevertheless, it’s important to choose the right way for showing empathy.

First, it’s important to distinguish between relating to a person and relating to a moment. Be sure your efforts are aimed at relating to the individual and not a particular experience they have chosen to share with you.

Give the Gift of Listening

Listening is a priceless gift that you can give to the people in your life every single day. When you are a good listener, people are drawn to you and it does wonders to strengthen your relationship with them.

Are you willing to give of yourself by committing to never again stealing someone else’s show? If you are, here are my suggestions:

  • Listen to the conversations going on around you to hear what show-stealing sounds like. You will be amazed at how common it really is!
  • Pay specific attention to the person whose joy or experience is being robbed. Notice the facial expression, body language, and overall demeanor. I am sure my face shows it because this is one of the rare things that bugs me.
  • Focus on listening more and talking less.  I have never met a successful businessperson who couldn’t control his or her tongue. Learn how to be an active listener without stealing the show. An occasional, sincere response along the lines of “Wow, that is amazing” or “I’m so sorry you’re going through this” will be welcomed.

Finally, the next time you’re listening to someone share an experience and you are preparing to speak, ask yourself, “Am I about to steal the show?” If you are, use your self-control and resist the temptation.  When the conversation has concluded and you successfully withheld your comment or story, take five seconds to recognize yourself for doing the right thing.

“To listen well is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.” —Chinese proverb

Renee Stewart Chittick, a member of the Little Things Matter Facebook community, inspired today’s post.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.

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