Are you horrified that I’m suggesting that you shouldn’t finish sentences? Contrary to what you may think, I’m not suggesting that you use sentence fragments in your writing. Instead, I’m suggesting that you stop finishing other people’s sentences when you speak with them. You’ll learn a lot more.
Trish Hall reminded me of this advice in her book, Writing to Persuade. To persuade, you must know your audience. To know your audience, you must listen.
Don’t cut people off in the middle of a sentence. Press your top teeth onto your tongue if that’s the only way to keep words from escaping.
As Hall says, “You need to listen so you know how to meet objections, and to determine what argument will be most persuasive.”
Moreover, your listening can make people like you better. Hall says:
People who asked more questions were better liked by the people they were talking with, especially if they asked follow-up questions that showed they were listening… [Moreover,] in one-on-one situations, when two people listen to each other, they become more open to the other’s politics and point of view.
By the way, do as I say, not as I do. My husband often catches me finishing his sentences. It makes him mad. However, when I studied Japanese in Tokyo, I learned that there it’s considered good to finish other people’s sentences. At least in Japan, it’s seen as a sign of how closely attuned you are to the other person. I must remember that I’m living in the United States now.
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