Some of us have worked in organizations where telling others what to do is the norm. Maybe you've grown up in a family where parents lectured you about what is right and wrong, and you've brought that skill into work.
Lecturing takes many forms. In some organizations, we go to meetings where people give presentations using PowerPoint. We are expected to 'talk' our stories so others know what is on our minds or what is important. We give business updates to one another to keep one another informed. Lectures, and all the variations can become the norm. Even email and Blackberry – if out of balance with real talk, can become a form of lecturing at others.
Some telling is normal, but too much telling becomes hyper-lecturing making listeners tune out. Moreover, to compound the situation, we think that because we have 'told someone what to do' they get it the way we intended it, so we move on to the next point we want to make rather than checking back for understanding.
Telling has a place in communicating, yet this pattern can turn off and disengage our brains, our relationships and our culture from reality. It doesn't stop with the two people who are interacting. The message communicates "my way or the highway" or "do as I say," or even "status quo" which can ripple throughout a team, and organization and become the cultural norm.
Tone Deaf and Blind
The consequence of this pattern is that people stop really listening to one another. They become so focused on telling what is on their minds, that they become tone deaf to the cues and clues that others are sending back about the discussions on the table. The important connection between the two people becomes broken, and they lose their natural syncing, rapport and more so – their empathy for one another.
One-way conversations have associated neurochemistries that actually reinforce the talking-at pattern. It feels great to be self-expressed, and the more we do it the more we want to do it. Talking at others feels good. There is a feedback loop to pleasure centers in the brain, increasing our appetite, and we want more.
Yet we know from our research that every 12-18 seconds listeners stop listening. Their brains need to take a break and digest. When they are being talked at non-stop, their brains need to integrate and make sense of what is being said. Consequently they tune-out and process the information they have heard.
Lecturing has its side effects. If you are a leader and want to develop your colleague's abilities, capabilities, and performance, you need to know that lecturing rarely develops another's ability to perform better. Lecturing is a monologue, a one-way conversation.
More often than not, the lecturer does not notice that they have left the listener behind. They are so engrossed in speaking that they do not realize the listener is off on their own mental journey. One-way conversations tire the brain. We tune out and turn off. Two-way conversations allow the brain to breathe and process at the same time.
Lecturing Our Way to Success
Awareness of the lecturing pattern can have a dramatic impact on your life. Ask yourself the following questions and when you find the answers, create your own action plan for change. Do your experiments every day.
Questions to Reflect On:
- What are the communication patterns you are establishing with others?
- Which are habits you are not aware of?
- What is the impact of these patterns on your relationships?
- Who has been open with you and told you that you were not communicating?
- How did you respond to these courageous people?
- Are you open to listening? Are you open to feedback?
- Are you inviting people to share feedback with you?
Communication Habit Patterns are the spine of a culture. We often don't see them – yet they are the fabric that holds us together.
Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization – winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; and the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory Goose