Let them affect you

Tom Guarriello’s on good form today. He’s challenging a cultural bias in favour of talking over listening:

Well, I think it has a lot to do with power. The power dynamics in relationships are very important to Americans and giving opinions by speaking, expressing, influencing, (selling) is the power position in conversations. Traditionally, the masculine position. Listening, receiving opinions, appreciating, modifying (buying) implies lesser power. The feminine position.

We glorify talking. Speech class for students. How to win friends, and influence people. Public speaking for executives. Think of how funny the opposites of those sound. “I’ve got to go to my Listening class.” “How to win friends and be influenced by other people.” “Public Listening.”

This reminds me of a good Improv lesson: that to create good drama you have to let your partner affect you. It’s not about topping their line with a funnier one, but letting them affect you.

5 thoughts on “Let them affect you

  1. Cyn

    Yes, and the letting part is the hardest. As in Improv, when we don’t ‘let’ our partner’s affect us, we have ‘blocked’ them and the scene usually falls dead, unless another teammate comes in and saves the others.

    Talking leads more to the bullshit factor whereas listening leads more to authenticity.

  2. patti

    I was asked once to create a training program for a U.S. company in Hong Kong. The communication class they wanted for their Chinese employees? “How to Interrupt.” Perhaps they should have learned listening skills from their Chinese employees instead…!

  3. Authentic Voice

    Blogging as busking

    The guy playing accordion on the street has a lot to teach us about writing. Recent discussions about rules, Tom Guarriello’s post on listening, and Johnnie Moore’s on

  4. Johnnie Moore

    Cyn: Listening may be the missing link in authentic voice! Patti: I think you point to a significant cultural difference; I believe that in the East introversion is regarded as more “normal” whereas in the West it tends to be seen as a character flaw…

  5. fouro

    Armour. Boilerplate. Heirarchy. Protective devices designed to absolve responsibilty and care — distance equals time and the ability to think and resolve.

    The challenge is that we as humans don’t get that luxury as we interact with the world. We are real-time. We are *real.*

    And the inequality and unfairness of the system makes us mad.


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