Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Can listening be a leadership skill?

Whether it’s a genetic and metaphysical pre-disposition or socio-economic and cultural massaging there is always a reason that people try to communicate with words, oft times its more important to determine why something was said rather than what was said, after all the greatest inhibitor of communication is language. If you don’t believe me then try re-reading that sentence again.

Listening as a leadership skill

Dad is really good at picking emotions and mood swings. He learnt to be a quick accurate judge because grandpa apparently had quick violent mood swings and you had to know when he was about to fly off the handle and when a joke would be safely laughed at.
For myself I think I’ve spent a relatively large amount of my childhood hanging out with adults who were discussing things like theology and proportionally small time learning how to competently catch a ball. I know the phrase “children are to be seen and not heard” but that was never the case for us growing up. I knew I could speak my piece and especially at the dinner table we all had our fair share to say, Even so with six people two ears and only one mouth means listen twice as much as you talk. So I think I’m fairly well positioned to give some points on how to listen to people, and thereby lead through manipulating the course of a conversation.

~In relation then to small group bible studies

Edit: I was trying to apply the KISS principle but this is turning into an essay, I’ll try again.
Lead by example; everything happens for a reason; Listen and watch before acting;
  • First you need to be present. You need to forget your past and not plan your future but concentrate solely on the present. Try to lead by example and stay on topic and make certain it looks like you are actively listening. If you daydream, or start reading ahead/ checking the time then everybody else will follow your example.
  • Participate, listen actively. So that they know you have not fallen asleep
  • Listen with your eyes too; somatic comms will give you a lot more information than verbal. You can only hear what somebody tells you. But somatically you should be able to see why they are talking in the first place.
  • Surroundings, what’s distracting them? Who do they not want to overhear their conversation. Is anybody tempering their language so as not to offend? Can you get away with polysyllabalistic esoteric spiritual jargon? Or will only half the group understand what is happening?
  • Body language, it’s a thing. See them, what do they see you doing? What about others nearby? Leaning forwards, fiddling, folded arms? 
  • Watch the watchers, how much are other people listening? Who is only listening and not talking? Should you direct conversation at them or allow them to be shy and comfortable?
  • To steer the conversation passively talking is best. Don’t speak if possible as you might dam the flow of conversation, it’s better to be a pebble and change the flow. As a leader if you pay full attention to one person and they see you listening acutely to them. Then they are encouraged to continue and once others see this you make them the centre of attention.
  • Give somebody permission to interrupt. When the speaker takes a breath at a full stop is the best time to switch to another person. As the audience listens they will form ideas and come up with something to say. Leave it too long and the thought is gone. Start too soon and the current speaker will feel disrespected. A listener will take a breath before beginning to speak, this is the time to give them your attention and switch the focus of the group.
  • Be selectively rude and dismissive. Roll your eyes and sigh to move the conversation along. If the right person notices they will move the conversation back to the topic at hand. If people are distracted by their phones you can get yours out and hold it back to front and pretend to look at humorous cat pictures.
  • Know the answer before you ask a question. Whenever a question is asked quickly guess three possible answers that might be given so that you can predict the flow of conversation.
    Likely answers will be:
    Incorrect- the question was misunderstood or the answer is unknown
    Short- one word answers slow the conversation but might be followed up by,
    Long- detailed descriptions may be informative but could go off topic.
    Attention seeking- if somebody always answers they may like the sound of their own voice and have not noticed that other people have opinions also.
  • Names are powerful. I’m not so great at this but recall a person’s name whenever they speak. And remember who they speak about, relatives, school friends parents. Chances are they will come up in conversation again later.
  • Go off topic; While you are all supposedly gathered together for the same reason you never know what gems of insight will be found at the end of a monologue. Also no matter how important you think it is to follow the scrips and stay on schedule, somebody may have a burning question or a miserable day. Ubuntu is more important than ruthless rationality, people will bond best when sharing wounds.
  • If you are not making any progress at all then you are on the wrong path be flexible enough to
Stalker, the computer game you play as a chaotic neutral mercenary, you can listen to people but interactions are limited to shooting them or selling loot. Its based on a movie and book thate are set before the Chernobyl disaster. But set afterwards because that fit the plot better. I quite liked the movie and recommend you watch it on [youtube] with the English subtitles. It shows Stalker the guide as an effective leader yet he is always last and the least fortunate of all the people. Just like in the movie, in the game I never quite made it into The Room, so I cant say how it ends.