Although I haven’t worked as a journalist for a while, there will be always a strong journalist heart pumping in my body. I love to learn, understand topics, grasp the essence and to find out what makes people tick.
In the early days as a journalist I prepared many questions for my interviews. I believed in the power of smart questions. But I wasn’t experienced — or agile — enough to change my interviewing plan. While listening to my interviewing partner with half an ear, I was already rehearsing the next question. I am sure I missed many nuances and interesting things to dive into. When I got older, I decided to only have a list with some key topics to discuss. I still took detailed notes and was in total control of the interview. After all, it feels good having some power in such a situation, doesn' it? I was busy listening and processing the answers at the same time.
Later on, I kept my little list but recorded the interviews. During the inteview, I only noted personal observations and key topics to branch out. I trusted my recorder. Interviews became less formal and more interesting, a real conversation. But when I listened to the recordings, I realised one thing: I was still talking too much. My questions were too long. Many times I asked a question and didn’t seem to be happy with the wording. So, I added some more context and another question. Useless crap, really. This must have been perplexing. In other interviews, I gave away my opinion in lengthy riffs, not providing any direction or value. “You talk too much,“ I told myself.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a great listener. But occasionally, I also feel like, well, talking. It is a human desire to express ourselves. I get easily excited, especially when discussing interesting subjects (technology, politics, sports) and then I need to share my thoughts. Okay, everybody should be allowed to have and to express an informed opinion. The art is to know when to open your mouth and when to shut up.
In German we say “Reden ist Silber, Schweigen ist Gold“ (talking is silver, silence is gold). Sometimes it is enough just to be there, to be present. So shut up and listen. I have been thinking a lot about this lately. As a Scrum Master, I want to be a trusted team member, a servant leader. In the beginning, I need to understand the organisation, the team dynamics, shareholder engagement, the unspoken agreements and disagreements. I need to be present, to listen with all my senses. Listen, listen, listen. And will I might share my thoughts in an honest and transparent way.
So, how to overcome the urge to talk instead of just keeping silent? The answer is W.A.I.T.
Ask yourself W.A.I.T: “Why Am I Talking?“
Write it on a sticker next to your screen. W.A.I.T.
Write it on your hand. W.A.I.T.
Why do you want to talk? Is it about you or the parson you are with? Do you need to feed your ego, talk over your insecurities? How about asking a question instead? Or remain silent?
There is always time to W.A.I.T. And don’t forget to breathe!