- By: Al Smith – President and CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce
Communication is important. Not just the words..but the delivery.
There is an old saying in the selling game about talking past the close. The “close” is the moment in a transaction that the seller says the right thing and the buyer says “yes.” Talking past means the seller keeps talking past the time the buyer wants to say yes…and with additional information decides to say “no.”
For the past few months, there have been many important issues before the City Council that provoked a large turnout of citizens desiring to weigh-in. Having a Council Chamber full of interested citizens articulating their opinions is the backbone of our great democracy. And, in spite of conflicting opinions, rarely do any mention anything in a derogatory way. They state their opinion and calmly stand aside while the next person voices his or her viewpoint. Most are very considerate despite their differences.
Such consideration is not necessarily given in return from our elected officials. I don’t know what is in the City Hall’s drinking water, but after the public has shared their views (three minutes maximum) these interested citizens are required to patiently, and many times painfully, wait while they are lectured for an extraordinary amount of time as City Councilmembers do their best of imitation of Fidel Castro (His speeches notoriously lasted for multiple hours).
All of us obviously want to hear the rationale for whatever the decision the Councilmember is going to make, but must they use the occasion to rant on for ten – fifteen – twenty minutes (recently one went for over 40)? Not only do they talk “past the close” but many times they clear the room. Simple math illustrates that with seven councilmembers each talking that long on a single issue – the poor public sits there for hours on end, getting numb during this prolonged oratory or as many do finally and painfully give up and go home. They wait to hear the results on the next television newscast or even the next day in the newspaper.
If most speakers use around 100 words for each minute of talking, then figure this comparison. The Gettysburg Address took about three minutes. The Declaration of Independence less than 10 minutes. The shortest and most poignant message from the Bible came with two words, “Jesus wept” (Two seconds).
Along this line, kudos go to Councilman Paul Caprioglio who introduced (without success) the “Bla-Bla-Bla Award” in an attempt to curtail such rambling. But when the Councilman’s microphones turn on, it’s like putting raw meat in front of a starving dog.
For the sanity of citizens wanting to be involved, could we respectfully ask our Councilmembers to make a new year’s resolution for 2015 to turn the timer on when they begin to talk? While they don’t have the restriction the public has, maybe with the clock continuously and prominently showing how long they have been talking might just urge some level of brevity and much consideration for those in attendance.