Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 03/28/2022
My son and daughter are both involved in show business (a term they may abhor, I haven’t checked). Of course, to a large extent, so am I!
Some of you may have seen the reruns of the great Micky Rooney and Judy Garland movies where the answer to every single exigency and vicissitude of life was, “Let’s put on a show!” They made it look easy, and we know it ain’t easy.
My son has done some work with me, presenting sessions and even joining me for a group on improv. I learned along the way that one of the keys to improve (which is about 75% of what I do) is to never reject and always accept what the other performers offer. That’s why I never defend a point with a prospect, but always stress that we’re really saying the same thing. Most of you know my signature line: “That’s exactly why you need me!”
We were watching David Mamet’s famous play Speed-the-Plow on Broadway and, like all of his plays, the dialogue and repartee are dizzying. But I’d often found huge differences from one performance to another in various venues. I asked my son on this occasion, “What’s wrong, there’s something not right about the dialogue?”
He explained, “The actors aren’t breathing. They’re responding too quickly with their lines.” Sure enough, even those with great intellect and superb timing in reality have to hear what’s been said to formulate a brilliant response. You can’t do that in a nanosecond.
We all need to breathe. We tend to have our own “scripts” in our heads which we can’t wait to disgorge, hurling words all over the listener, vomiting ideas. We don’t adequately listen in order to make the best choices (something else that good actors do well) in how to respond. We tend to abhor silences, which often serve to encourage the client to keep talking. Instead, we try to fill the void.
We only learn when we listen. We’re not being paid by the word. We have to make good choices. We need to be sedulous in our attention to the discussion, not our “prepared lines.” In the theater, a great director will help any actor with this by providing “notes.”
Consider these my notes to you.
Silence is the unbearable repartee. —Alexander Theroux
Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply. —Stephen Covey
Yes, but what’s your point? —Alan Weiss