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Lead Through Listening

By: David Benzel
Posted: July 23, 2008, from the August 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Some people tend to think out loud for everyone to hear—often in a very blunt manner. They then edit their thoughts in public by saying, “Here’s what I really meant,” or “Let me rephrase that.” They might even revise their initial version several times. Typically, they quickly offer the information you’re seeking, so it may seem that very little patience will be required on your part.

Keep in mind that, although you may not have to wait long to hear their story, immediately jumping in with your assumptions and drawing conclusions will often prove to be a mistake. This conversation is a work in progress for a quick responder, and it’s far more prudent for you to deliver a well-timed, “Tell me more,” or an “… and then what?” The additional information you receive will be worth the wait, as feelings and thoughts become clearer in the mind of a fast-twitch responder.

The slow-twitch responder

Some people tend to process everything internally, preferring not to share the end result until it is edited and refined to a finished product. These people never share a verbal rough draft. The new stimuli they receive during a conversation enters a processing chamber where it is stored, considered and condensed into manageable material. This takes time and requires patience from those who eagerly await an explanation or a report about what’s going on.

Impatience at this point will cause the listener to jump straight into tell mode, as in, “Let me tell you what I think.” The lecture the listener delivers is usually not appreciated or helpful. Patience, on the other hand, combined with thoughtful silence, will usually produce a concise account of true feelings and ideas from a slow-twitch responder.

The silent treatment

To gain credibility, learn to give space and time to others before making your verbal contribution. Give the gift of silence and let people consider their actions and their words. Use phrases such as:

  • “Tell me more.”
  • “What else?”
  • “What then?”
  • “How so?”
  • “What did that mean to you?”
  • “How are you feeling now?”