Creative LeadershipStrategy & Marketing

Shut Up and Listen!

I’ve experienced something strange lately.  A few months ago it started.  A young film director wanted to meet with me and get my advice about the industry.  I was traveling a lot so it took a few weeks to schedule, but we worked it out.  He was an avid reader of this blog, and was excited about the meeting.  But from the moment he walked into my office he started talking.  An hour later, he was still talking.  I finally had to bring it to a close because I had other things to do.

Shortly after that I went to the National Religious Broadcasters Conference in Nashville.  Another meeting, another guy.  Been waiting a long time for my advice.  We met, and he started talking.  Guess what?  An hour later, he was still talking.

What’s going on?  Since those two meetings, I’ve had many more.  Each time the person who wanted to “get my perspective on things” did all the talking.  Now I’m no genius, but I was a little surprised at people who are willing to wait for weeks – sometimes months – to get my “advice” but then do all the talking.

I learned a long time ago that I can learn far more by keeping my mouth shut.  I attend many meetings where I rarely talk, because I’m more interested in hearing what everyone else is thinking.   I don’t know if they felt compelled to explain themselves, or defend their situation, but the bottom line is the meeting time came and went, and I said very little.  Perhaps they just needed to vent.  I don’t know, but if they wanted my advice, they went away empty handed.


And one more thing:  Stop interrupting! I know you have great ideas and want to share them in meetings.  But the fastest way to lose everyone’s respect is to keep interrupting them.  Hold it back.  Listen, and when there’s a natural break, then you can chime in.  But interrupting is the ultimate disrespect.  It’s like saying you don’t care in the least about what they have to say – because the idea that just popped into your head is far more important.


Respect others people’s ideas, and you’ll discover something amazing.

They’ll start to respect yours…

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  1. Great advice. I am reminded of an Abraham Lincoln quote: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

  2. I've been in several Marketing meetings where large ministries and also a Christian publishing house had paid THOUSANDS of $$$ for skilled consultants to give them advice on how to reverse a downward slide in one area or another.

    I was (and, still am baffled) by the directors who would either spend the whole time (2+ hours!) talking about their plan (which clearly wasn't working) or worse, would pretend to listen and then carry on with the same crazy choices that caused the problem–a problem which prompted them to call on a consultant in the first place! 

    When the advice didn't match what they were doing (of course it didnt'. It was the solution to fix the results of what they were doing!), they felt insulted somehow and felt a need to prove their plan would work, which it never did. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot and forcing an entire organization to limp along…. Pretty unfortunate.   

  3. That's why we have two ears and one mouth–we are to listen twice as much as we speak.

    I live and work in New York City and am a writer. Last summer, a local "mega church" wanted to get into the film producing business. Asked any and all who were interested to meet to "see what God wanted to do."

     About 70 people showed up: 40 unemployed actors (it IS NYC!), 15 dancers (?), 5 writers (including me) and some "extras."

     I listened–Phil would be proud–as people asked questions like: "I have a short story–can it be made into a movie?" "Does it have to be a G-rated film?" "I have this great poem that would be a great movie."

    I work in advertising and done many commercials so I knew these were the wrong questions. 

    This nonsense went on for 30 minutes. I finally asked about experience: anyone in the room ever write a screenplay? Any of them know how to write a film treatment? Anyone know that a page of script is about a minute on screen? Was it perhaps too much to start right out of the box making a movie–maybe we should get some "help"?

    The response was stony silence. Clearly, I did NOT have the church/pastor's vision–they were planning to be the next Tyler Perry. 

    The pastor said that God told him we can make a LOT of money for the gospel by making a movie and he said the Lord told him that the script would be in the room at the first meeting.

    (The church was trying to raise $80 million for a place to meet and movie making is a fast and easy way to raise millions as we all know!) 

    When the meeting was over, everyone was asked to send their film project (?) to the church within two weeks.

     I had ZERO desire to participate and within a few months, that pastor was part of the senate investigation. I have no idea if God has put them in the movie business or not but I was glad I sat quietly and LISTENED — I learned a lot. Like, don't get involved!



  4. Last year I was privileged to be a workshop speaker down in Columbia, South America for the CBN School for Correspondents involving 20+ video/journalists, all of them Spanish-speakers. These are mostly fledgling director/camera/editors who find, shoot, interview, edit stories for CBN's Latin American news show, Mundo Christiano, headed by Stan Jeter, a GREAT veteran producer.

    One of the statements I had remembered from years back, and filed in my notes, was something subtly, but profoundly important that ABC Nightline's Ted Koppel once said: "The BEST questions often come from the PREVIOUS answer." I mentioned this simple bit of wisdom to the group. And their eyes lit up. They really got it – a "Eureka" moment. We took this basic idea a step further, that you as a communicator have to really be LISTENING to your subject during an interview, focused in the moment, not thinking of the next thing YOU want to say or merely working from your list. No seat of the pants.

    If you listen, pay close attention, and really hone in on what other people are saying…they will tell you the most AMAZING things. Guaranteed. But listening comes first.

  5. Phil,

    You may not remember it, but I am still greatly thankful for the time you took out of your schedule to sit down with me and discuss the topic of Christians in the industry for the video I was producing(it was while I was interning at TWC.) Your advice and comments still come up often in discussions at my former college as well as with those who have seen it and the interview series(with you, Ralph Winter, and Craig Detweiller) is now used in a class shown to every freshman who enters the college. I'm thankful you gave us the time to be able to listen to the advice and perspective you were willing to share!

  6. Great post, Phil.  Someone once challenged me, because I kept interrupting, where in the Bible did an interruption of a speaker happen, and if so was it approved?

     That helped me stop interrupting so much.

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