There is a tale about Abraham Lincoln before the Civil War. He happened upon a slave auction and noticed from the crowd the object of the next sale. A beautiful young black woman stood on the auctioneer's stage. The bidding started and the men in the crowd began raising the price one after another as they appraised her with cruel stares. But with each bid Abraham Lincoln would raise it one dollar higher. As this continued the young slave girl eyed the tall awkward man with a look of suspicion and fear. Finally the last bid was made, and it fell to young Lincoln. Lincoln paid the auctioneer and the slave girl was brought to him. "Remove her chains", he ordered her former captor. The girl rubbed her wrists and glared at her new master with uncertainty. "What ya' goin' ta' do wit' me now", she asked. "Why, I'm going to sit you free miss", he answered. "Free? What you mean, free?" "I mean you are a free person. You are no longer a slave." Ya' mean I can do whatever I want?" she exclaimed. Ya' mean I can go anywhere I want?" Abraham Lincoln just smiled and nodded his head. "Then I want to be wit' you!" she shouted. He looked down at her, puzzled. "You can go anywhere. Why would you want to follow me?" "Cause I wanna be wit' the one who set me free."
We could say, "Indeed, he is wonderful."
What if instead we said, "Son, I know he is a prophet of God, a seer, and a revelator. He may be one of the greatest prophets that ever lived."
Can you see the difference? Can you feel the difference?
A daughter might say, "We have a nice bishop."
We could respond, "Yes, sweetheart, he is."
What if we took this opportunity to say, "Sweetheart, he was called by God by revelation. He has the mantle upon him, and he is guided by inspiration in his calling."
Children need to hear their parents testify. Siblings can strengthen each other, and their friends can be lifted spiritually.
Can you think of anything in this generation that would affect members of the Church more than living to be worthy of the Holy Ghost constantly and testifying as guided and directed by the Holy Ghost of the truth of this great, majestic, divine work and more especially of Him whose work this is?
This is how we will put His law in our inward parts, and it will be written in our hearts. It is how our iniquity will be forgiven. Of course, when we live worthy of the Holy Ghost, it will have required repentance, submission, and meekness. Then we will have qualified, and then the Holy Ghost will inspire us to testify and forgiveness will come.
Within three seconds of beginning my talk, I could tell. I could tell who had learned the skill of being in the audience and who hadn't. And I'm worried that it might be permanent.
The good audiences were all the same. They leaned forward. They made eye contact. They mirrored my energy right back to me. When the talk (five minutes) was over they were filled with questions.
The audience members that hadn't learned the skill were all different. Some made no eye contact. Some found distractions to keep them busy. Some were focused on filling out the form that proved that they had been paying attention.
What I discovered: that the good audience members got most of my attention. The great audience members got even more... attention plus extra effort. And, despite my best efforts, the non-great audience members just sort of fell off the radar.
This isn't a post about me and my talk. It's about the audience members and the choices each make. It's a choice your employees and your customers make too.
It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that information is just delivered to you. That rock stars and violinists and speakers and preachers and teachers and tour guides get paid to perform and the product is the product. But it's not true. Great audiences get more.
Great audiences not only get more energy and more insight and more focused answers to their questions, they also get better jobs and find better relationships. Because the skills and the attitude are exactly the same.
I am too much of an optimist to believe that the lousy audience members in today's program are stuck that way for life. But I know that the longer they wait, the harder it is going to be to change.
The next time someone says, "any questions," ask one. Just ask.
The next time you see a play that is truly outstanding, lead the standing ovation at the end.
The next time you have an itch to send an email to a political blogger or post a comment or do a trackback, do it. Make it a habit.
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