Being part of a small, passionate team of individuals trying to do the best work possible has its obvious benefits, but it also creates a lot of empassioned arguments… you know, arms waving and red faces. I’m not averse to arguing, I actually think it’s healthy, when handled in the correct manner.
So the question begs to be asked, what is the “correct manner?” Let’s examine how this all plays out by looking at the lifespan of an argument.
It all begins with a person who has an idea, or sometimes it’s simply a thought. The very thing we are coming together as a group to do is the catalyst to all of this. Ideally, we are here to create, to innovate and to think beyond what we have, or anyone else has, done in the past. This idea is voiced, often at a fairly half-baked stage, in the trust that it could be built aloud with the group, used as a springboard or a thought-provoker and occasionally it’s to play devil’s advocate.
At this point, the point where it is now out in the open, the original intention no longer dominates the thought’s trajectory. As much as one would like to contextualize or elaborate on the thought, it is too late. It is now in the hands of the opposite party, or group, to build with or unravel.
Two roads have just diverged in a conference room…
I won’t waste too much time on describing the usual deconstructive responses, we’ve all seen it far too often: dismissal, reactionary comebacks, railroading, circular logic, belittling… the list goes on.
What should be happening is a basic principle that has fallen by the wayside in our society. The old adage of two ears and one mouth, in all of it’s cliche’d corniness, is spot on.
This may be the hardest part for most people. We all have ideas. We all have a voice with valid thoughts that pine to be heard, but we also all have an ongoing need to continue learning. What better way to learn than by learning from others’ experiences and thought processes?
The need to interject rather than listen is rooted in any number of things: self-centeredness, a lack of confidence or grasp of one’s self, belittlement, lack of respect, to name a few. This need, chips away at the very foundation of innovation… that initial “what if…?” In this regard, listening is as important to the speaker as it is to the listener.
We often hear the phrase, “don’t take it personal.” This concept, albeit incredibly hard to truly follow, is the secret sauce of this stage. Bill Murray said it best in Lost in Translation, “The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” Having that firm grasp on who you are, helps you take things less personal. Don’t listen to the words said, listen to the concept that was attempted to be conveyed.
Understanding your audience is important. Where are they from? What is their role? What horse do they have in the race? What are their goals? What are their past experiences? The list goes on. All of this comes into play when trying to decipher meaning. Ask yourself these questions to uncover a world of information that you previously did not have.
The final piece of the puzzle. At this point, I’m partial to questions rather than statements. Restating what you understand is being said and getting confirmation on that before continuing on to responding with your thoughts, is a good path as well.
The real key here is to make sure you convey that you took the “Listen” step seriously and participated in it actively. If this isn’t apparent, then it’s likely that you will not be afforded the same courtesy. When this degradation in conversation and respect happens, it all unravels (enter: waving hands and red faces.) When it does happen though, you’ve just created a dialogue and dialogues are the core of innovation in groups.
“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” – Bill Murray
You control the outcome of your ideations, conversations and interactions with most people. Are there some anomalies? Sure. Are they much fewer and farther between than a lot of folks would like to think? Absolutely. Was I influenced to use the term “anomaly” because of Uri’s post last week? Prolly.
A setting where people cannot share their thoughts is one of the most dangerous place to be, not only for a creative studio like ours, but in everyday life. We all have a need to be heard. Equally, but less evident, is that we all have a need to listen.
(This post was originally published on Nelson Cash‘s blog here:http://nelsoncash.com/blog/2012/07/06/listen-analyze-respond/)