Speaking & Listening = Leading & Following


Who wants to speak to someone who’s not listening?  Not me.  Who wants to listen to someone who’s talking to themselves?  Yeah, right.


The ability to listen empowers you to stay relevant when speaking.  The ability to speak provides you perspective when listening.


It’s easy to think you know you’ve heard someone, yet you misinterpret them completely.  It’s easy to assume someone understands you, but they don’t get you at all.  These are breaks in our communication line.


As with so many facets of life, dance can be an insightful metaphor.  When I can lead, I can better understand and follow another lead on the dance floor.  When I can follow, I can better understand and lead another follow on the dance floor.


Leaders in dance can often become inwardly focused with constant thinking and rethinking in what, when, and how to move.  However; to the follower who has never led, one cannot empathize with what’s going through the leader’s mind.  When this happens, the leader is only thinking about leading and the follower is only thinking about following, as they dance “together”.  This is as far from dancing as two people talking at one another is from a conversation.  If we want to move together, physically or verbally, we need to understand and embrace both roles in the relationship.  We need to empathize.


The best speakers are listening to their audience as they speak.  They focus on subtle cues, such as posture and eye contact to keep their speech relevant and engaging the audience.  The best dance leads also focus on subtle cues.  They feel their follow’s response to their guidance and refine their leadership to meet their followers needs.  They perceive what the follow can and cannot do and aim to keep their dancing to movement that is understandable and enjoyable for both partners.


The best listeners do not hear words at face value; they analyze the message and interpret its true intent.  Like listeners, the best follows can feel what the lead intends to lead and actively assist, versus passively following.  “Oh, we are promenading into a triple axel?  Let me help with that!”  versus, “Oh you’re moving here, and then here?  Don’t forget to take me with you!”


If you want to be a strong lead, creating dance moves as you go, you need to know how to follow.  If you want to be a strong follow, effortlessly responding to turns, steps, and spins, you need to know how to lead.  if you have ambition to be the most enjoyable dancer for both yourself and your partner, then you need to learn how to lead & follow – preferably at the same time.  Don’t be the manager who tells their employees what to do and how to do it, yet have no idea what the employees are actually doing!  I’ve had that manager.  Don’t be that person.


By Michael Haug

Our Lines of Communication


Before internet, we had phones, before phones, we had letters, before letters we had face-to-face conversation, before conversation we had emotional expression, and before emotional expression we had only action and reaction.  To ensure we could communicate our thoughts and feelings clearly, we put deep thought and emphasis on single messages.


Like real life, when we have limited connection points as we dance, it is very necessary we focus on clear intent and communication; otherwise, lost in translation becomes a reality.  How do we do this?  As a lead, we ensure the connection points, at all times, move exactly where we intend our follow to move.  As a follow, we literally feel the heck out of these connection points.


In today’s society, we have so many lines of communication: phone call, text message, social media, email, snail mail, app this, app that, etc.  This makes communicating with others so much easier (we can message harass them, until they get it), but it also puts significant pressure on us to communicate who we are and how we feel.


Like in real life, the more connection points we have in dance, the stronger we can express our intent.  If we are connected via hands, arms, and even tummies, it is much easier to use all these points and communicate our killer dance moves.


Leads – when you are having a challenging time communicating (leading) with Ms. Jiggly Wiggly, don’t grab or push her to emphasize your intent.  Instead, add more connection points (in a non-creepy manor) to better lead your dance moves.  Drop more hints to your partner.  If I’m dancing with just hands on hands connection and my follow is dancing to a different tune then I am, then maybe start dancing hands to back, and elbows to elbows.  I guarantee she’ll at least have a better sense of what you are trying to lead.


Follows – if you’re dancing with Mr. Cool & Crazy and you can’t understand what he wants you to do, connect your entire arm to his arm (this doesn’t mean rest your arm on his – just connect to it), and maybe hands to his shoulder or back area.  This will encourage him to actually lead you and not just be Mr. Cool & Crazy, and hope you follow.


The ultimate goal as a lead is, regardless of how many connection points you are using, that you are able to feel what your partner can and cannot follow, that you move so clearly and intently that your follow always knows where to move next.


The ultimate goal as a follow is, however much or little information your lead is giving you, that you feel exactly what he is trying to lead (basically mind reading through touch).


In the future, I’m sure we’ll be able to just think message to each other, not wasting our valuable time articulating sentences and messages.  Think message will probably help us articulate our thoughts and feelings and take pressure off the actual message we are trying to send.  On the other hand, it could freak us out that others can know what we are thinking; we’ll practice our best masquerade, stop exploring our real thoughts and feelings, and dedicate our lives to creating our “culturally appropriate” self, whatever that may be.


Sometimes when you just cannot understand or be understood by another, rather than repeating the same attempt over and over, try to implement different tactics within that line, or add more lines of communication.  Eventually your partner has to get the hints.  Right?  Or you can invent think message – get that party started.


By Michael Haug



Dancing Interpersonally

The brain is a wonderful tool; it also can be a wonderfully self-tormenting tool.  The brain is good at thinking too much, talking you out of doing, and getting in your way of seeing the truth.


How to use dancing to dissolve your personal brain battles and cure social awkwardness:


My first time dancing I was shaky like a badonkadonk and concerned to much about my insufficiencies, rather than focusing on my present and future opportunities.


I still get in my own way mentally, but I am much less afraid of what can go wrong and much more concerned with what can go right.  Many times I even choose to be socially awkward.  It’s funny; funny and insightful.  Like a singing bunny.  That’s funny.


When we are dancing, we are doing and there is no stopping it; having a present interaction with another being.  Most of our energy is focused on hearing the music and trying to figure out what the hell we are doing – no time for brain battles.  It’s time for dancing!


How dancing will cure the awkwardness:


Listening:  When we are brain battling we surely are not listening.  How could we?  It’s impossible to be in the present if we are not listening to our surroundings; especially when we are not listening to our dance pal who is right there in front of us.  The lead always needs to be listening.  He needs to know what she is following and what he can lead next.  And a follow, well, is the definition of listening and reacting.  You can’t follow if you can’t listen.


Speaking: OMG! I was so scared.  If I do anything incorrectly, I am going to hurt my partner and she would fall over and die, and probably like me less.


Directly moving through your partner, and constantly communicating with them.  He is saying, “Do this” and she is saying “yes, no, or maybe ;)” All with just the movement of our bodies.  OOOUUUR BODIEEEEES! OH YEAH!! When the music starts, our bodies are doing.  We don’t have a choice.  Doing without thinking.  It feels good, doesn’t it?


Touching:  How often are we permitted to touch another person?  Not very often.  How often are we appropriately permitted to touch the opposite sex?  Talk about learning to be comfortable with other people.  We are communicating with another person “hands on!” It’s good stuff.  Really really good stuff.


Making Mistakes:  Oh my god.  I cannot screw up!  Not in front of this person or that person, or anybody I know.  No way, José!  I will only put down my screw-up guard in the safety of my home, where I’m comfortable.  When you’re dancing you are going to make mistakes.  When you make those mistakes, your partner’s going to know about it.  There is no hiding it.  You are going to make naked mistakes in front of others on the dance floor.  Whoop Whoop!!  Hopefully your attitude embraces these mistakes and turns them into learning opportunities.  Opportunitays!!!


Dancing can also cure personal stinkiness.  If your dance pal says you stink.  You probably stink.  You stinky poo, you!


Lastly, life is a game of mirrors.  People around you emulate you.  The way people act when they dance with you, is a very honest reflection of your behavior.


Ready to learn a little bit about yourself and others?  Let’s dance.


by Michael Haug