Years ago, I had the opportunity to do a TEDx Talk in Minnesota, and I think about it a lot. The title was #OurVoice, and the whole idea behind the talk was to encourage people to use the platforms available to us to share their voices with the world.
I still agree with much of what I shared that day, but I also shared this quote and think it is imperative to what I am writing today;
“If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.”
General Erick Shinseki
My thinking today is 2022 has evolved since 2013, and in many ways, I wish I had talked more about the idea below.
If everyone is focused on only talking, who is actually listening?
Here is something that has changed in my thinking.
I used to think the best way to help others change their mind and move forward was by talking. Now I know it is by listening.
This doesn’t mean you should never share your ideas or thoughts. It is more focused on the idea that it is easier to pull people from where they are instead of pushing people to where you want them to be.
In a world full of noise, the ability to listen is more important than ever.
This is one of the reasons I don’t use social media as much as I used to, or it at least appears that way. I share way less, and I try to read and listen way more. Often I don’t add in my contributions because I like stepping away and thinking about things and creating my own learning. Social media is fast-paced, and too often, it rewards those who are “first” rather than the ideas that are well thought out and shared slowly over time.
I think about this quote from Dale Carnegie in one of my favorite books of all time:
I also think that when we sit back and listen more, the times we do share ideas become more powerful and relevant.
Here’s an example of what I mean through a tale of two coaches.
As a basketball referee, we would always talk before the game about anything we should be aware of before the game starts. We would often share what we knew about the team and the participating coaches. In the same game, I remember one of the senior referees sharing that one of the coaches would yell all of the time and that I should be aware of that. But I distinctly remember her saying this is about the other coach; “The coach from the other team rarely says anything, but if he does, pay attention. He probably has a really good point on something you might have missed.”
In that game, the one coach would yell all of the time, and basically, it became background noise. You didn’t even pay attention after a while because the yelling wasn’t about what was the best for the game, but it was his way of trying to sway you to call everything in favor of his team, whether right or wrong. You learned to ignore the noise, and all of the talking didn’t make much of a difference. This is not to say that he was never right about his assessment at any point in the game, but it became kind of the broken clock analogy. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. But what is often not mentioned is that you tend to ignore the clock altogether if you know the majority of the information provided is wrong.
I am not saying, “don’t share your voice.” Quite the opposite. I am saying that a voice becomes more powerful when we a)listen and learn from others and b) think of the timing of when something needs to be said.
If everyone is talking, then no one can be listening.
The ability to listen is a currency becoming more valuable than ever in a world where an abundance of information is the norm.