You're Dave Filoni, a kid from Pittsburgh who loves animation. And, not coincidentally, Star Wars.

So, in time, you find yourself working as a story artist and director on a Nickelodeon show. It's a great job. While you're not living the dream, you're definitely living a dream. 

Then you get the call: George Lucas, creator of the Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchises, and founder of LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Lucasfilm, wants to interview you for a job.

At first, you think someone at SpongeBob SquarePants is playing a practical joke. 

Then you realize the call is real. And to your surprise, you land the job.

Not only do you help create The Clone Wars animated series, but when Lucas sells Lucasfilm to Disney (for a not too shabby $4 billion), you go on to create animated shows like Rebels and Resistance. And now you're an executive producer and director of the live-action series The Mandalorian, a major tent pole of the new Disney Plus streaming service.

In an industry where talent -- both in front of and behind the camera -- tends to come and go at an alarming rate, how did Filoni become a lasting player in the franchise's 
ecosystem?

"One day, George said, 'Do you know why I enjoy working with you?' And I said, 'No, I have no idea.'

He said, 'Well, you listen to me.'

A lot of people think you need to come and impress someone. They think, I'm going to show you or do better. They don't always think you impress somebody by listening."

Lucas clearly agreed. While flexibility, collaboration, and imagination were obviously required, Lucas looked for more.

When asked about Filoni, he said:

"I immediately found (Filoni) to be very open-minded and a great listener, which are qualities I admire because it opens a person up to new experiences. 

(The key is to) stay open-minded and realize that there's still a lot to learn.

There's always something to learn."

True. But in order to learn, you first have to listen -- even though, in many situations, listening more than you talk is hard.

Take interviewing: job candidates who listen more than they talk may fail to fully detail their skill, experience, and qualifications for the job.

Or trying to land a new client: listen more than you talk, and you may never get the chance to describe why your company, your products, or your services are the best option.

But if you don't listen, you'll "sell" what you want to sell instead of what the other person really needs.

Listen more.

Want to be a better listener? Start by listening at least twice as much as you speak. (Three times as much is better.)

How? Ask simple questions. Then make eye contact, smile if you agree, look puzzled if you're confused, respond nonverbally. That's all it takes to show you're really listening -- and to encourage the other person to continue. 

Then, when you do speak, ask clarifying questions. Ask how. Or why. Or how something felt. Or why something mattered.

Only speak when you have something important to say.

And never forget that your advice, no matter how badly you want to give it, is rarely important. Always define "important" as what matters to the other person.

Not you.

Which means never giving advice unless asked, because offering advice when you weren't asked immediately shifts the focus of the conversation onto you. 

Listen slowly.

Sometimes, instead of asking questions, the best conversational technique is to listen slowly.

In Change-Friendly Leadership, management coach Rodger Dean Duncan describes how he learned about listening slowly from PBS NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer:

"He urged me to ask a good question, listen attentively to the answer, and then count silently to five before asking another question. 

At first that suggestion seemed silly. I argued that five seconds would seem like an eternity to wait after someone responds to a question. Then it occurred to me: Of course it would seem like an eternity, because our natural tendency is to fill a void with sound, usually that of our own voice."

Duncan quickly realized that resisting the temptation to respond too quickly to the answer allowed the other person room to expand on what they had already said, or go in a different direction. 

Giving the conversation room to breathe made people more willing to disclose, explore, and even be a little more vulnerable.

Try it. The next time you interview someone, or try to land a new client, or ask someone to share their ideas, in effect, the next time you have any kind of conversation, listen slowly. 

Those pauses will result in your learning more: additional examples, fuller explanations, different perspectives.

And even if that doesn't happen, this will: By listening more, and listening slowly, you'll make the other person feel more respected.

More important.

More valued. 

Which is the perfect outcome for any conversation.

Published on: Nov 15, 2019
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