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Talk or listen

Good Group Tips

In principle, a simple but important decision I have to make every moment in a group is whether to open my mouth or to keep it shut, to talk or to listen. I contribute best to good group decisions if I set the default to “listen.” After all, God gave me two open ears and one closeable mouth. I listen unless there are compelling reasons to talk, not vice versa.

Practical Tip: Listen most of the time. Speak up only if:

1. You personally care about the issue and have a real stake in it,

2. You understand the issue enough to add useful, accurate information,

3. No one else has already said it, even with different words, and,

4. It is the right time for speaking on the issue,

If each of the four conditions is met or if you have strong feelings just screaming to be shared then—yes!—please speak up. Others will benefit from your words. Otherwise, best to listen.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

5 thoughts on “Talk or listen

  1. Thanks so much for commenting, Jim. Just clarifying that I’m suggesting that all four conditions be met. Even clarifying for someone else who may be confused is not a good enough reason to talk if someone else has already clarified, if you don’t have a stake in the issue, or if it’s not the right time for clarifications. According to this Tip, there is a very high standard for talking in a meeting!

  2. Great tip, Craig! I’m going to turn productive on your here, though, and not just receive your words but add mine to the discussion:
    I would also add that it is time to speak when you notice someone else has misunderstood some information and you can clarify it for that person and for others who may also be confused. But perhaps this falls under your point 2.

  3. a Very good tip. Unfortunately, I have observed many individuals who have a great deal of difficulty following this tip – occasionally, including myself.

  4. With “Stories” and “Moral Compass” this
    tip captures what I think is most important about living well and honestly. Relationships and belonging are the key to human happiness and each of these conveys the importance of each. “Stories” captures the value of helping people relate to others’ experiences as they listen and make meaning of the message. And stories also help people learn from the past, brining forward typically wise nuggets. “Moral compass” emphasizes integrity and true human compassion — something I strive to instill in my new infant daughter as I now feel this tremendous responsibility to nurture and shape the life of a sweet, innocent child. and “Talk or listen” is just SO TRUE that it is worth repeating again and again so everyone hears it! Again, I see my child watch intently…my movements, my facial expressions, my words, my eyes — silently. She is just a huge sponge, soaking in all that she can. I see how seriously she observes and can virtually see her little brain clicking as she is learning, silently. When she chats and babbles, it is totally external and she is practicing, practicing — not learning anything from her outside world while that’s happening! What a perfect example she is of “Talk or listen”. How wise children are.

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