Speaking & Listening = Leading & Following:

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

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