Saturday, May 24, 2014

Board Meeting Rules of Thumb: Do Not Interrupt!

Of the four social styles gathered around your boardroom table (Drivers, Analyticals, Amiables and Expressives), at least two of the styles prefer to talk than listen.  There’s help! Ruth Haley Barton lists 10 listening guidelines in her important book, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups.

She writes, “Don’t take it for granted that people know how to listen. We live in a culture where people are much more skilled at trying to get their point across and arguing their position that they are at engaging in mutually influencing relationships. The following are a few guidelines for entering into and maintaining a listening posture that helps us hear and interact in ways that are most fruitful.”

     1. Take full advantage of the opportunity provided to become settled in God's presence.

     2. Listen to others with your entire self (senses, feelings, intuition, imagination and rational faculties).

     3. Do not interrupt.

     4. Pause between speakers to absorb what has been said.

     5. Do not formulate what you want to say while someone else is speaking.

     6. Speak for yourself, expressing your own thoughts and feelings, referring to your own experiences. Avoid being hypothetical. Steer away from making broad generalizations.

     7. Do not challenge what others say. Rather, ask good questions that enable you to wonder about things together.

     8. Listen to the group as a whole—to those who have spoken aloud as well as to those who haven't. If you notice that someone hasn't spoken, feel free to ask what he or she is thinking. Some people aren't as comfortable as others at asserting themselves in conversation, but when space is created for them to speak, they have much to offer because they have been listening and observing quietly.

Leave space for anyone who may want to speak a first time before speaking a second time yourself.

     10. Hold your desires and opinions—even your convictions—lightly. Be willing to be influenced by others whom you respect.

Barton concludes this powerful page on listening guidelines with a personal reflection challenge. Consider sharing this at your next board meeting.

PERSONAL REFLECTION: "Invite God to search you and reveal your normal patterns of speaking and listening. Ask him to reveal one aspect of this kind of listening that you could practice in order to be a more helpful listener in leadership discernment."

Note: Barton adapted these listening guidelines from the book, Grounded in God, by Farnham, Hull and McLean.

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