Asked one day how did you learn to be a great leader, Former President Nelson Mandela, responded that, he would go to tribal meetings with his father, who was a tribal leader as well and he observed two things at those meetings:
- They will always sit in a circle; and
- His father was always the last to speak.
Before he became president during the negotiations of the new dispensation, He would gather his comrades, usually more than 10, into the kitchen and they would gather around the kitchen table on their feet.
He would throw an issue on the table, often a sensitive and difficult issue and he would ask his comrades to go around the table sharing their views.
In all these meetings he would be the last to speak.
By the time it is his turn, he would have prepared his response to those he held a different view and he knew how to counter them or offer alternative views.
Often we are told that we need to learn to listen. I think you need to learn to be the last to speak.
The skill to hold your opinions to yourself until everyone has spoken does two things:
- It gives everybody the feeling that they are listened to, to feel that they have contributed;
- You get the benefit of hearing what everybody else has to think before you render your opinion;
The skill is to keep your opinion to yourself.
If you agree with someone don’t nod yes. If you disagree with someone, don’t nod no.
Simply listen and take it all in.
The only thing you are allowed to do is ask questions, so that you can understand what they mean and why they have the opinion they have.
The idea is to understand from where they are speaking, why they have the opinions they have, not just what they are saying.
And in the end, you will get your turn.
Practice being the last to speak.