James Strauss


Years ago, at a motivational seminar, that I was forced by my employer to attend, the speaker mentioned something that was of surprising value to me. Surprising, as I’ve always thought of motivational speakers as being made up mostly of people who’ve failed at everything in life except in getting other people to believe them. The speaker said this about verbal communications, occurring between and among human beings:

“When people are silent and giving the appearance of listening intently to the words of others, they are not thinking about what the speaker is saying. They are merely waiting for an opening so they can speak themselves.”

Is there truth in this statement Zig Ziglar made so long ago? Was what he said founded upon his own life experience or was it something that merely sounded right and good to a bunch of rather seasoned sales professionals?

Have you noticed, when thinking about your own conversations with others, that if you are interrupted you (and they) almost always are capable of picking right up at the sentence you stopped? The simple fact that that is true, and it is for the most part, might form quite a foundation of truth for Zig’s comment. If you are holding on to the last word of the thought you were verbally transmitting through speech until an interrupter was done so you could finish, were you not in fact just waiting to finish and most probably ignoring whatever the interrupter was saying?

Are people really capable of listening and evaluating intently what others say, or are they simply really good at making others believe they are listening and evaluating intently?

Think about it.

The last time you were interrupted and then later finished what you were talking about, were you not really just on ‘pause,’ waiting patiently, or otherwise, to continue what you were saying?

Have you noticed through the course of your social life that when a person tells a joke at a party, no matter how terrific and funny the joke, another person almost invariably steps up to tell another joke (a ‘topper’ if you will)?

Is the person telling the second or succeeding joke really trying to the top the first or is Zig right. The next joke tellers are not trying to top the previous joke, but are merely invested in getting themselves listened to because their own need for recognition is so overwhelming?

Have you noticed, if you’ve traveled to Europe, that in almost every restaurant over there the wait staff very carefully observes and listens to the verbal communications going on at they tables they are taking care of, in order to determine an opportune time to break in, and offer one service or another?

Have you noticed in America that such a seemingly well-mannered kind of service isn’t available at any restaurant anywhere? In fact, at most restaurants across this country wait staff appears almost aggressively proud to simply show up to a table and ask “what do you want to order?” or some other service-related question? So, apparently there are cultural issues at work in this communications complex as well.

Why is it that radio and television have become such powerful determinates of human behavior and response? All while many members of the public, exposed to these mediums, categorically deny that these sources have any effect on their decision-making at all? In fact, ninety-nine percent of all American households own at least one television and statistics show that the television is on for more than seven hours every day. However, if surveyed, and this has been done by sociologists over and over again, only twenty-three to twenty-seven percent of these same Americans even admit to owning a television!

Times have changed. The media complex, along with cell phones, the Internet, video games and new movies, have all made communication much more complex and more dependent upon graphics and visual arts rather than on the intent of the messages transmitted by the spoken word. Where there was once a concentration on the words of a story or song, the concentration is now on the sound of the music or the special effects of the visual medium.

In other words, it is all about transmission and not reception. If you don’t believe that then you might not be old enough to know what the word service used to mean when calling providers of all sorts of things to inquire about new service or to complain about existing service. A young enough person is probably unaware that in the “early days” of the Internet, all companies put their contact phone numbers and addresses on their front pages to facilitate customer contact.

Try to find such information on websites of the modern era.

Try to find someone at an airport to complain about your flight seating, luggage or whatever.

Modern human cultures are heading in a new direction, Europe slower than the U.S., and there appears to be only one potential result to where they are going. It can best be described as a cultural social phenomenon wherein people have no “receive” button. Any new information that gets into human brains in this modern era get there only incidentally or as the result of an actively directed search. Gone are the days of browsing.

Bookstores are almost all closed. Online sites for reading, music or whatever offer no ability for customers to browse so they might run into something they want to have, read or listen to. The public of today goes to see a movie because of the graphics presented on television or the Internet about it. Think about this mental construct of a receive button being postulated about in this article.

Look at the next human talking to you without pause, and then imagine that human having a small “receive” button hidden up near his or her left shoulder joint. Physically pushing that imaginary button with your finger may be the only way you have of getting any real attention from that human in the future.

Of course, it may also get you arrested.

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