Do You Speak in Manalogues? (For Leaders Only)

The New York Times recently introduced a new term to the English language.  “Manalogue”–-men talking, talking, talking. The writer, Julia Baird, described a speaker who was answering a simple question:

“This otherwise perfectly charming man droned on and on, issuing a steady stream of words as I sat cramped in a tiny room with a group of fellow journalists….”

Ouch! I hate to admit it, but I have been guilty of “droning on and on” in my leadership of staff, on fundraising appointments and in donor visits.

Do women speak in manalogues too? Of course, but women tend to resist over-speaking when answering questions, according to Baird.

Male or female, when we over-speak, we dangerously assume:

  1. We are articulate and interesting.
  2. Listeners are mesmerized by our words.

My wizened journalism professor used to say: “There is no such thing as a dull subject, but there are dull speakers.”

So why do we over-speak when answering questions?

  • Trying to be helpful? The more information, the better. Hmmm.
  • Ego? Impress with our knowledge.
  • Stalling? Not knowing what to say, we talk until we think of something—like a befuddled pilot searching for an airstrip.
  • Bad habit? We don’t even know we do it.

As you gain experience or are promoted to leadership, over-speaking becomes more tempting because you’ve learned so much—that is good. Knowledge is not the problem. Discipline is the problem.

Takeaway: In your fundraising and donor ministry--

  1. Just answer the question! No need to explain how the question has been addressed by Socrates or C.S Lewis. Employ what my African friends call the Hippopotamus Factor. As you gaze across a steamy African pond you see only the hippo’s tiny ears, eyes and curvature of the back—most of the hippo is below water. In other words, resist the temptation to share all you know.
  2. Seek dialogues. When someone asks a question, it is usually a preamble to a second question—the real question. A manalogue discourages them from asking the ‘real question.’ Find out what is on their mind. It is more important to be interested than interesting.

Proverbs 10:19 summarizes it well: “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

Your thoughts? How do you promote dialogues with giving partners?