The power of the listener

We often assume that the person with a voice is the person with power: we equate holding the microphone with directing a meeting. There is some truth in this. The words we choose and the connections we make with them are great ways to influence what happens around us.

But having a voice is only one kind of power.  Who is most powerful? The one who talks or the one who influences the speaker?

We talk because we want to be heard. Our listener's attention acts, usually outside our awareness, to edit our speaking as we speak. Performers know that the quality of the audience changes the quality of the performance. This is true everywhere someone speaks and someone listens.

You have had experiences where you lost your voice because someone chose to hear something else. What I mean is this: there was a time you wanted to talk to someone but you couldn't capture their attention. You got frustrated and you stopped talking about the topic on your mind.

Listeners change what we can say because our brains pick up signs of attention and feed us suggestions to do more of what captures attention and to do less of what does not get attention.

Flip that around. Be intentional about your listening. You could bring out better, more useful ideas in someone.


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