Show, Don’t Tell
Posted on 29 April 2018
Do you remember the grade school activity of Show and Tell where we brought in an object and then proceeded to talk about it with our classmates? As a learner who is visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, I particularly loved these learning sessions. Adult learning, or Andragogy, is a field of study that should interest us in our personal and professional realms. You may think, as I once did, that management or leading does not entail teaching and learning, only telling and doing. I hope what I am about to share with you illuminates the most effective way to develop effective followers, leaders, and collaborative teams.
My father, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, used to tell me the reason people didn't pay attention when you talk to them is that you were only engaging their ears, and not their eyes or hearts. He said when you are telling, the ears have something to do, but the eyes do not. Hence, the eyes glaze over or decide to close. However, if you engage them by showing, their eyes have something to do and stay alert and focused.
Teaching, speaking the truth in love, exhorting, rebuking, and coaching, are all done to benefit the recipient. Since we spend so much of our time communicating for a purpose, it's imperative to make sure that our words count. We need to spend much less time telling, and much more time showing. We all know someone can look you straight in the eyes and not listen to a word you're saying. Anyone with kids knows that!
When we stop telling people what they ought or not do and start showing them, we take communication to a whole new and transformative level. People hate to hear they're wrong, but they love to see they're wrong. So how do you achieve this type of dialogue? First, you speak from the heart and bring your own experiences with the subject matter. You show them versus trying to get them to listen to you.
They say storytellers make the best communicators. Look at the teachings of Christ who spoke merely in parables and illustrations familiar to the people of his day. That's why it landed and changed them. He didn’t tell them; he showed them. He engaged their eyes so they could see what he was referencing and they could hide it in their hearts and apply. Stop telling people how to be a better person, employee, spouse, friend, etc. and start showing them how to be a better person, employee, spouse, friend, etc.
Talk to the heart, not to the ears. This way you will get your people not just to listen, but to think! This principle is the number one objective in communicating with others. Interrupt their train of thought so they can see what you’re saying. My father said it best, “What is managing? Managing is interrupting a person’s train of thought. What is selling? Selling is interrupting a prospect’s train of thought. What’s preaching? What’s teaching? Teaching is interrupting the train of thought to get students to discover what they knew. We do not pump it in; we become a catalyst, an activator to bring it out. What a difference.”
At the close of each dialogue, you should leave people saying, “I see what you are saying!” versus “I hear what you are saying.” Have a productive week showing others how they can lead a tremendously productive and peaceful life!