It’s a conversation
Have you ever sat with someone who just talks and talks and never listens? Or have you ever caught yourself talking not to someone, but at them? There is a part of us that demands to be heard. At times, we just want to be validated – we want someone to agree and, if they don’t, we’ll say it again until they do.
But that’s not a conversation, is it?
To lead to something interesting, the sharing of ideas or really learning, we need real conversation. Real conversation requires that we listen at least as much as we talk. Not just nodding our head while we think of the next thing we want to say. We must engage. Connect. Understand.
For us both to benefit, we must really listen.
Film and television provides a great platform for those who like to talk at people. Many of us think this is how it works: people sit in front of a screen and we present our amazing vision. We bombard them with what we want them to see and hear.
But that’s all wrong. Really, it is a conversation.
I’m finding it is often people in preschool television who understand this best. Dora stops to listen to her audience. Elmo listens to children. Barney, whatever you (or I) may think of him, listens. They are all in conversation. Is it any wonder that children respond to these characters? Yes, technically when broadcast the reality is little more that ‘head nodding’ because your television cannot hear what your children are saying (yet) but the answers of so many children have been listened to, considered and often completely understood before that show was made.
For me, the best of children’s television (Sesame Street, for example) listens deeper and asks their audience what they need. The want and the need aren’t always the same thing but Sesame Street aims to ascertain and satisfy both in their conversations.
It has taken me a long time to really embrace this. It often goes against that part of us that demands to be heard. Just last week, for example, I was working on a Cosmo script that had a contentious story element and my first instinct was to ask myself what was truly important to me in the story. That was the right question but aimed at the wrong person. I needed to connect with my audience and engage in conversation. Having been through many excellent conversations with my audience up to this point, in this instance it was nothing more than a purely imagined exchange, which can be just fine if you do it with honesty and stop talking and start listening. A wonderful clarity comes from conversing with our audience, getting to know them and wanting to give them the best. It allows us to untangle what we’re making from our own ego.
Of course it is something we can apply well beyond preschool.
We can take a break from pushing what we want, our precious ‘vision’, and take a moment to listen to our audience. Try it. Try seeking out your audience or even just create them in your mind and ask them:
a) What do you want?
b) What do you need?
Then listen honestly. Consider. And respond appropriately.
It is a conversation.