The Fallacy of Flow

Re-listening to my latest Ruthless Love podcast (yes, I’m that kind of person) got me to thinking about conversation expectations.

In that episode, I thought things were going great because there was a lot of texting. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. And hey, I know what you’re thinking. “Pffft, texting?” But no! It was like a lot, a lot.

The moral of the story being actions speak louder than words. Talk is cheap. You know the cliches. Basically, you can say a lot of things and not really mean anything. (Conversely: you can “say” a lot by not saying anything.)

Was I sucker back then? Maybe Probably. Are people still a sucker for this stuff even now? For sure, but not just in dating!

With any kind of communication dynamic, there’s a false expectation in how it’s supposed to play out.

With my English-learning clients, I see this happen. They’ll listen to a native speaker and have trouble with a conversation. “Americans speak fast” is the observation. “I need to speak fast to be fluent” becomes the conclusion.

That’s definitely not the case.

Real communication can be pretty ugly. It’s full of stops and stutters, pauses, repeats, and abrupt endings. Of course, it rarely looks that way in TV and movies unless you’re watching a scene that’s trying to play up the awkwardness.

Just yesterday, I was helping a client with some listening practice. I was using short TED Talk clips like this one:

Damon Horowitz is a little different from other TED Talks. He’s more on the theatrical side instead of the slow-flow style presentations that’ve become the TED Talk norm.

Is it a good presentation? Debatable.

Is this an effective presentation? Sure.

Is it real communication? I’d argue no.

When you’re trying to be a better speaker, be aware of your standards and models. If you really want to speak like Damon, it’s definitely achievable. Keep in mind that he goes through a lot of practice and rehearsals to deliver his speech in that manner.

It’s not a style of speaking he’d do impromptu (i.e. “real”/natural communication).

TL;DR There’s a flow of back and forth and a flow of words themselves. Don’t be too quick to idolized. There is such a thing as “too smooth”.

Published by Jon Dao

Formerly, the Conversation Coach

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