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Speak Up: Stewing Your Ideas in a Crock Pot

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Dorothy meets the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz

        Here’s an idea to help you think more  fully before you speak.

      Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy first meets the scarecrow? Dorothy is mystified as she scans the straw that passes for the scarecrow’s brain . Finally exasperated, Dorothy blurts: “But if you haven’t got a brain, how can you talk? The scarecrow responds matter-of-factly: “I don’t know but I’ve seen a lot of people without brains do a lot of talking.”

       Talking yes. Speaking no.

       I’ve noticed the most effective leaders  do a lot more than just talk at  the podium. They literally have  a speaking part to play with their audience. They speak WITH more than talk TO their audience.   They seem to be echoing what the audience is thinking. They seem to be conversing with the audience, two way understanding more than one-way commanding.

     The most effective leaders I’ve known resisted the bully pulpit behavior of preaching and commanding.   They regularly got off their soap boxes  and climbed down from their Ivory Towers to breathe the people’s air close to the ground.  They know that anyone can ‘give a talk”  but  you always SPEAK WITH  others.   Anyone can talk.  No listeners needed. Some people talk to themselves. But speaking is a learned social behavior that doesn’t come naturally like talking. Speakers require listeners, engaged thoughtful listeners to respond empathetically. Talkers simply sound off and hope someone hears them.

      Effective  leaders learn to converse with their audience not simply talk.   The word “converse” means to keep company. When you speak, you engage in a more intimate intercourse or exchange of ideas, according to one dictionary definition. But when you talk you launch into a discourse (from the Latin “to run”), you run on with an idea no matter if others follow you or not.

Cook Ideas Slowly in a  Crock Pot

       Leading speakers don’t run on.  They stop,  look and listen to what their audiences are feeling or thinking.  Then they adapt their message, their words to the audience’s needs and ears. But talkers run on. Talkers like to hear themselves more than listen to others.   Talkers like to run their mouth so quickly they often say something they haven’t thought of yet. No wonder talking and speaking are about as different to the spoken word as the microwave oven and the crock pot are to cooking.

Talk is like Fast-Food in a Microwave Oven

        Talking, like fast food in a microwave oven, is ready for consumption in a few seconds. At the push of a button. Any time. Any how. Meanwhile speaking is like a gourmet stew, simmering in a crock pot of thoughts and ideas for hours. Then stirred with years of experience and spiced with keen insight and expertise before serving. Or delivering.

     That’s why many leaders choose a legal pad and pen rather than a word processor and a mouse to write their speeches. With pen in hand, they have more time to pause and think down the page rather than click lickety split all over the page.  James MacGregor Burns,who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 often wrote with a quill pen to insure more thinking time. He said he took his cue from the founders of America who all used quill pens that forced them to pause regularly, dip their quill into the ink,  and then continue to write more thoughtfully.  After all, they didn’t have straw for brains and they did a lot more thinking than talking.

      What’s your speech writing process? Do you use a legal pad and pen or a screen and mouse most often and why. I look forward to reading your thoughts. Use the Comments section below.

          Today’s ImproveMINT
Converse more with your  audiences to keep your
 your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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5 Responses

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