“I win because I’m better at: bluster; brow beating; bombast and domination than you are!’​

A little while ago I pulled together two different groups of people both with a shared objective. One small difficulty – they had different ideas on how to reach the destination. My intention was that both groups could explore the ideas of the other and come to a concensus as to the best approach.

Bad Idea

Although this was done with the best of intentions it soon became clear I’d got it completely wrong. One group (in reality an individual) had no intention of exploring ideas or alternatives. Their sole purpose was to prove themselves right. Their conversation was largely centred around interruption and “put downs”. There was an excessive and belittling overuse of ‘but’s’ with people who on the face of it were less senior. Their body language was dominant and unapproachable.

A Televised Version

19895222 - 3d illustration of group of man with bubble speech of question what is your opinion

Recently I was watching 2 politicians on Newsnight being interviewed by Evan Davies. One of them was a character with a long political career behind them. Though with views different to my own I had always found them stimulating, interesting and thought provoking. A proud pedigree of achievement they enjoyed was something even the partisan would have to respect.

The character being interviewed at the same time was bombastic and brow beating. Instead of sharing ideas they were constantly interrupting, shouting down offering unqualified value judgements and was there an element of sneering at times? Instead of a well thought out and stimulating debate we ended up watching a shouting match with only one competitor.

But why is it so hard to shut up and listen?

We all fall into the trap on occasions and it seems to be more prevalent in recent times (particularly in America). When we encounter somebody, particularly someone we don’t see very often or in a contentious situation, we immediately fear that we won’t be taken seriously. In the words of Amy Cuddy, ” we’ll seem “less than”. So we talk first , to own the moment, to take charge, to prove ourselves. We want to show what we know, what we think, what we’ve already accomplished.

Often in our own mind we believe that talking first shows I know better than you; I should speak while you listen. I’m setting the agenda; here’s what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it.

The risk here is that a forceful character may miss solutions, innovations or ideas than colleagues with less seniority or “force”. Even worse in the long term they will create: disharmony; a lack of trust; unnecessary stress and an atmosphere where problems are hidden rather than shared.

But that’s not me!

When ‘not listening’ has been mentioned to colleagues or people I am coaching the retort has often been “listening is just not me” or “I cannot help being forceful”. Do forceful colleagues or managers have a congenital defect that prevent them from listening. I think not. It is a matter of choice to listen well. They can even say to colleagues, “If I am being overbearing and not considering your views let me know”.

The Benefits of Listening.

Extreme I know and a lot more dramatic to the circumstances most of us will face, but you will find a link here from the inspiring Jeffrey Brown and how teenage violence in Boston was reduced by 79% just by listening. Jeffery Brown in Boston, America


Who am I? A chap living in Nottingham, United Kingdom who perhaps has a much higher level of enthusiasm than ability leading to an interest in many things but mastery of none. A father of three no longer dependent children, or so they tell me, and husband to a one-time nurse who now works with me (or rather I work for). I attempt to take photographs and occasionally fluke half decent shots though thank goodness I no longer have to buy film. I endeavour to practice karate but with advancing years spend more time instructing them participating but actively participate in the more gentle tai chi. Professionally I have spent the last twenty years in recruitment – not always the most highly regarded ‘industry’. For my part I take great pleasure in helping companies to find the right people and a lot of satisfaction out of seeing them thrive and succeed. More recently I have spent a lot of time helping people who have, or fear they may, lose their jobs. For many putting a CV together is so difficult and then finding opportuniteis can be a major challenge. Interviews can be a different problem altogether but with a little help most people can perform a lot better than they otherwise would.

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