Are You A Transmitter Or A Receiver?

Years ago I had a client who had the gift of the gab. No matter where he was or who he was with, he had zero problem finding something to say. The problem was, he also had zero ability to stop and listen.

This became apparent when I asked a number of his colleagues for feedback on him. Among the numerous comments about him being talkative was one that summed him up perfectly:

“He’s always on transmit, never receive.”

I was reminded of this when a woman approached me for some advice following one of my sessions. She said she found it really to hard stop talking once she started, especially in meetings where lots of people needed air-time, and was worried it was creating a negative perception of her personal brand.

I felt her angst

I’m someone who can also get stuck in transmit mode, diving into unnecessary details or recapping what I’ve said even though it’s already understood. When I become aware of it a voice in the back of my mind shouts, “Enough already!” (That’s when I worry other people are thinking, “Enough already!” too.)

So I passed on three tactics to this woman that I’ve used successfully in those situations to flip my switch from transmit to receive. For anyone else who’s a major transmitter, here’s what they are:

1. Create a physical barrier

Whenever I want to stop myself talking and start listening, I put my hand over my mouth – creating a physical barrier to remind me to keep it closed.

I don’t use my whole hand though. Instead I rest my chin on the base of my palm, with my hand at an angle, then curve my fingers so the tips of my pinkie and ring fingers are resting above my top lip with the other fingertips resting on my cheek.

It means my mouth is still visible (necessary to help build trust) but I can’t readily open my mouth without removing my hand, so I have to listen.

2. Write what you hear

Taking notes is a great way to not only show the other person you’re listening but also keep your brain engaged with the matter in hand (making it harder for it to skip to saying something out loud). I recommend doing that with a pen and paper, rather than a laptop, for a couple of reasons:

a) The laptop screen creates a physical barrier between you and the other person, plus the sound of the keys being hit could derail their train of thought.

b) A 2021 study by the University of Tokyo revealed that writing on paper can lead to more brain activity when remembering the information because the unique, complex, spatial and tactile information associated with writing by hand on physical paper leads to improved memory.

I also make people aware of what I’m doing and why, usually saying, “If it’s OK with you I’ll take notes as you talk, as I process things better that way.” That removes any chance they’ll think I’m rude for not having as much eye contact as I would if I only listened.

3. Ask for help

My last piece of advice depends on your relationship with the people you’re transmitting to and how often you’re interacting with them.

If, for instance, you’re conscious you do a lot of transmitting in your weekly team meetings, ask people to flag when you need to flip the switch to receive. You could either ask the whole team or a single person you trust to help you.

You might say, “I’m making a conscious effort to improve my listening and make sure other people get space in the meeting. So if you think I’m talking too much, or going into too much detail, I’d really appreciate you letting me know. You could just raise your finger or give me a look.” (Note that the wording starts by focusing on the positive, what you’re trying to improve, not the negative.)

The extra benefit of this tip is you should earn bonus points for showing a bit of vulnerability and illustrating your self-awareness.

What tips would you add to help someone reduce the amount they transmit and do a bit more receiving? Do you recognise that in yourself? Or have you experienced with in a colleague? I’d love to hear your thoughts with a comment in the box below. Thanks!

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6 responses to “Are You A Transmitter Or A Receiver?”

  1. Denis Kaye says:

    Excellent advice Jennifer; I recognise myself! Taking notes is a great way to ensure you’re in listening mode. Another tip, for spectacle wearers, is to remove and polish your glasses (especially if you’re myopic as you then can’t see the other people so have to listen).

  2. Tony O says:

    Totally agree, and requires conscious effort on my part. One thing I realised a while ago is that when someone interrupts you whilst you are speaking even to agree with you then it is still an interruption. I try to keep absolutely quiet right until I am sure that they have finished speaking before I respond. Still working on it though.

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      Thanks Tony. It’s good to show you’re listening though, so a silent head nod is a good middle ground I feel.

  3. Tom Morton says:

    *You* getting stuck in transmit mode, Jennifer? Nah…..

    Great post! Love the specs tip and the head nod. #everydaysaschoolday

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