Had a very interesting day today, one filled with a number of moments of mentorship. As a part of all the learning, there was a lot of listening… and most of the listening really wasn’t about the words people were saying.
What someone is saying is only about half of what they are saying:
What’s being said in a conversation is important, don’t get me wrong, but the ability to understand the context of what was happening and the emotion behind each conversation topic is so important. We were in the midst of solving the world’s problems, you know because that’s totally what we were doing… and there was a moment when a mentor of mine was asked to deliver an explanation of his idea. Watching him work was a learning moment – initially delivering the information slowly while he taught the room to understand his point of view, then speeding the pace of his speech he began to develop a concept of urgency behind what he was talking about, finally after some back and forth he stopped explaining things in detail and transitioned to a very high level summation of his thoughts. In the end, it was the high level concept that ended up in the PowerPoint deck. The learning moment wasn’t how the idea was present with detail and eventually thru conversation was brought down to a simple two sentences… any good business book could tell you to do that… the learning was in the way in which each stage was presented. When educating speech patterns were slow, eye contact was very focused, and each new sentence of information was followed by a pause to give the opportunity for questions. As the conversation moved from education to debate, the quicker pace and use of emphasis on certain words really hit home the point of urgency. I realize these things seem pretty trivial, but a quality presentation combined with the right idea goes a lot further than just a good idea.
The context of what is said, is often more important than what is said:
Later in the day I got a phone call to help with this idea that was going to solve the world’s problems. Immediately the person on the other side of the phone could identify the stress in my voice. (I realize this now, but not at the time) Realizing my stress they took a supporting role as the context from which they were speaking. Calmer speech patterns followed. The conversation covered the same information it would have no matter the context each of us was talking from, but because of the context the conversation was in we were able to build to a larger plan. In this scenario, it was me playing the role asking questions and starting ideas and my counterpart of the phone offering answers and presenting new ways to unlock/accomplish the task at hand. It’s important to understand who you’re talking to in terms of the context of your conversation, it often makes all the difference in productivity and a wasted 30 minutes.
Words are Words are Words… so don’t use so many of them:
Body Language, Pace of Speech, and the Context of a conversation are important… but also are the words you use, especially the amount you use. If you can’t tell by this and all of my posts, I struggle with the concept of less is more when it comes to my words. People don’t want to learn every piece of information about a topic, that just shows you “know” something. People want you to take all that information and summarize it to its most important points, that shows you “understand” something. Even one step further, when you’re asked a question that clearly should get a response that is one word… just answer in one word. (This happened like six times today, I promise one day I’ll answer a question “Yes” or “No”.)
Thanks for Listening,