Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Leading, Leading, and Letting

"Leading." Most times and places, people say it "leeding" and mean "being ahead, showing the way."

In printing and graphic design, "leading" is pronounced like the soft heavy element leading. In the land of type, "leading" is pronouced "leding."

It means the amount of space between lines of type.

Type used to be made of lead and the space between lines type was also made of lead--hence the space between lines of type was leading and is still called leading, even when it has become a computer dream that in some cases never gets physical.

Leading in type has a lot of do with whether or not people read something right away, or whether they never read it.

Eyes are physical. Eyes physically like having space between lines of type to move back and forth in. Eyes that look at something with lots of leading think it feels easy to read, even though the person with the eyes isn't conscious of the leading factor.

The person with the eyes consciously looks at something with lots of leading and other physically helpful features and starts reading. The person with eyes sees something with dense type and little room to move back and forth between lines and decides, "Later"--which so easily can become "Never."

There is a kind of leadership, a way of leading, that leaves room for people to move and find their way. The person who is leading has introduced a topic, an idea, and then the leader leaves spaces for people to find what they know about this and add it to what the leader knows.

I have seen two different women speaking to a few hundred people about a better world who having the luck and blessing of making the audience believe, yes, a better world can be and we can help it be.

The moment of audience belief was marked by a rich, deep, growing silence. Who was growing in the silence was the audience.

One of the women, hearing this silence, rushed in with many words. And with new ideas--it was ideas she hadn't said before in that speech. It was like she was having a reaction that at last she was heard, now she could say all she'd ever wanted to say.

It was tiring to hear her, and killed the silence and the potential of the silence.

Since she was a person who gave a lot of speeches it was odd to feel like she went through life feeling basically unheard, so when this silence emerged, she had to fill it with her.

The other woman talking about a better world, when that growing silence emerged, she shut up and went with it. I honor that. I am not sure I could do it. She let the silence, and the audience's
growing of its own ideas go on on for a really long time--an infinity, in US terms. I thought she could have let it go on twice as long productively. I note that I myself probably couldn't have let it go on half as long.

***The woman who stepped on the audience's hearing silence where they could hear themselves gives speeches all the time. The woman who let the silence grow ha given a number of speeches in her life, but it wasn't part of her daily routine. Perhaps that helped her be present to what was happening with this particular speech. ****

To be able to notice when what we want starts to happen and be able to go with it, not stop it--bless us with this skill and the courage to use it.

Women sometimes open a pubic statement by saying, "Of course, I don't really know about this. . ." or "This is only my opinion." Women often open a public statement by undercutting what they are about to say.

Peggy McIntosh points out two ways to look at this.

1. Women don't think they have the right to think. They don't have the self-concept the present what they have to say as being as valuable as what others say.

2. The way opinions are presented in a public space often involves an inaccurate amount of certainty. The standard way of presenting opinions is more certain than anyone can be about anything. So women who sound like they are undercutting themselves are groping for an accuracy about what is known. None of us know, regardless of gender, race, creed, color, religious background, ethnicity, sexual orientation. We don't know anything with the certainty that used to be a standard for the people with the mike to say stuff, back when the people with the mike were almost always of one gender, race, etc. So the apology that sounds much like groveling and self-abnegation is a try at reflecting accurately the state of knowledge we have which is the only state of knowledge we're ever going to have--partial and personal.

It would be good to include the uncertainty factor without sounding like a self-devaluer.

If you could include uncertainty in a way that respected self and others, you've created more leading, more space between the lines for people to move around in, feel unconsciously comfortable in, and space to combine what the speaker knows, what the listener knows, and what reality knows and hasn't said yet.