Who Really Is The Smartest One In The Room
At some point, given the right topic, almost everyone will have a moment worth sharing.
The challenge, at least as it relates to productive dialogue, is that many of us believe the frequency and scope of our insight is so grand as to warrant the lion’s share of attention in any given room.
But when was the last time we engaged in an interaction where the objective of everyone in the room was to listen, intent on learning? On finding the building blocks for better conversations?
If you’ve been in a room like this it probably left a mark. There is dynamism there. When gaining insight is the goal, ideas flow freely. Maybe even new ideas. Solutions emerge more quickly.
But rooms where listening dominates are scarce. After all, territory must be staked. Turf marked.
Pick the most stressful or contentious interaction you’ll face in coming days. What might change if the objective were to listen? No immediate agendas. No winning or losing.
To be sure, there are plenty of reasons not to go down this road. Where’s the practicality? Someone has to lead. I’m expected to come to the table with a point-of-view, experience and expertise.
If you want to introduce a rare dynamic into difficult conversations, try being a point of listening rather than worrying about sharing your point of view. Unless you’re in unusual company, no one really hears — or gets — your point of view anyway. Not because it isn’t brilliant; but because while you’re talking most everyone else is only half-listening, while formulating a response.
(Double down on the above paragraph if the objective of the one doing most of the talking is to convince, convert, defend or distract.)
And if the fear is that failing to own a room displays weakness or affords unfair advantage to another’s point of view, consider the possibility that minimal progress will be realized in a room where the primary concern is winning the moment.
Real listening is an intentional and difficult act. It stems from a commitment to learn, and the relentless search for a bridge that connects all parties…even over enormous chasms.
When I believe my insight is ultimate, and that the room is best served when I broadcast my point of view, I should not be surprised when the only ones paying attention are those who share my perspective…and nothing changes.
There is rarely a shortage of talk. But when the talk accomplishes little, there may be a shortage of intentional listening.
In relationships with family, co-workers, friend or foe, perhaps the key to the change and progress we seek lies in having the courage and discipline to listen…to find the elements necessary to build a bridge to on-going conversation