Low Frequency x Short Duration = Intense Listening

I just read about a company, Seriosity, that built an e-mail system where every employee is given 100 virtual tokens a week that they can attach to e-mail they write.

If you want someone to read your message immediately, you attach more tokens, and your message ends up higher in their inbox. The idea is to encourage people to send less e-mail - those who are frugal will have a large reserve of tokens, so when they have an important e-mail message, they can load it up with tokens to ensure it is read.

It worked. When IBM tried it out, messages with 20 tokens attached were 52 percent more likely to be quickly opened than normal. E-mail overload ceased to be a problem.

I think these tokens exist in not only email, but in conversation and public speaking dynamics.

Communication trainer Michael Grinder talks about speaking "tickets". Basically the theory says that everyone in a group has a set number of tickets, and every time you choose to speak up, you spend a ticket. Run out of tickets, and people get annoyed with you for hogging time.

And regarding how long we talk when we spend a ticket/token, I believe that in most conversational circumstances, people who speak in short bursts of 30-60 seconds are more actively listened to. After that point, listener comprehension decreases significantly because they have things they want to say, too, and because of the basic laws of auditory attention.

Basically, the theme is:

Speak less and people will listen to you more.

I find the idea of tokens, tickets, and short-burst speaking to hold water in both conversations and in parts of formal speaking dynamics.

But how are some people able to spend more tickets and get more fans when they spend them? What are these scalpers doing that puts their tickets in higher demand and allows them to play by a different set of rules?

  1. They have high respect. You get workplace respect by being the boss, subject matter respect from established expertise, and human respect from people in general by having proven, consistent moral character and treating others nicely.
  2. They have high communication ability. Your tokens are more abundant and enduring when you have sweet timing, understand group dynamics, are funny, interesting, move well, are good looking, and smell nice. (Yes, looks and hygiene are a part of communication ability.) Some things are inborn gifts, but almost everything can be improved with coaching.
  3. They have a big stick and are threatening you. (This one tends to have only short term success.)
If you don't have enough respect or communication ability, a group may still be silent when you are talking, but this does not mean they respect you, just that they are respectful.

This silent act of non-listening is called paying 'ear service', and through self-conditioning, some people even learn to give it to themselves.

We call those people hypocrites.