Why Not . . . Become A Better Listener?
Wednesday January 26, 2011

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Sounds simple. Listening is something we all know how to do.  We’ve been capable of doing it sense we were in the womb supposedly, but somewhere along the way, many of us make the mistake of speaking more often than we listen. Recently, I was watching OWN’s Master Class with Simon Cowell, and while I’ve heard it said before, one of his lessons served as a great reminder that I know I could certainly continue to learn from – listen 90% of the time and speak 10%. Because as Mark Twain brings to our attention, “It’s better to stay silent and look a fool, rather than speak and remove all doubt.”

While Twain’s words may be harsh, I think there is some truth to be found in what he is saying. A wise person knows when to listen, even when they may have something very valuable to add.  Based on their audience and importance of the situation, such a person can determine whether or not they should speak up. I tend to believe that those who are confident in their abilities don’t feel the need to brag about themselves because they know their actions will speak volumes. It is only in times when sound reasoning is needed that a respectable and wise voice needs to be heard, and someone who tends to listen, gains knowledge and be privy to what such a situation looks like because they’ve allowed themselves to take so much information in, will know when it is the right time to let their voice be heard.

So what are the benefits to listening and how can we become better listeners?  Today I’ll tackle the latter, and I hope to convince demonstrate that there is great value in opening our ears because it truly opens our world to beautiful possibilities.

Knowledge Gained
As a student, we sit in a class, listening to the lecture, and write vigorous notes. While we may ask questions periodically, the majority of our time is to be a sponge and soak up information. I would like to suggest that choosing to follow the advice of 90% listening, 10% talking is a way of continually opening our minds to learning, new knowledge and absorbing different perspectives. Learning should never cease no matter where we are in life. The door to a worldly education should never shut no matter where or how we live. And by choosing to listen more often than we open our mouths assures the likelihood that knowledge will be gained. Knowledge that can be used to make better decisions regarding how to pursue our dreams, invest our money, get along with others and understand where we came from.
Make Better Decisions
Due to the knowledge we gain, as mentioned above, the decisions we make will be sounder, based on more fact and less belief or an “I think so . . .” thought process.  We will be able to eliminate the unnecessary confidently, knowing what we should focus our energy on, and what we should let roll off of our backs without paying it mind.
Gain Respect

By consistently being a good and active listener, those around us take notice.  Those around us witness that we genuinely care what others are saying and respect what others have to say.  In turn, it is more likely that respect will be given to us  simply by not saying a thing, but taking the time to truly pay attention and listen.

Unearth Opportunities

When we listen instead of speak, our thoughts are digesting what we are hearing.  Instead of focusing on what we want to say next, but genuinely paying attention, we take in what we are hearing and ever so often discover nuggets of gold. When we come across a discovery, we give ourselves opportunities. Take a moment and reflect back on a time when you discovered something new and intriguing. Did it occur when you were speaking your mind or when you were absorbing new information? Most likely, you were observing, listening and seeing something for the first time. Keep this in mind when you question whether you should be listening or calculating what to say when you get a chance. I assure you, very few times will you regret listening and gathering information opposed to possibly saying something you might regret.

An Increase In Productivity

By allowing others to speak, whether they be in our family, our place of business or simply an opportunity to work with others, more ideas are thrown out on the table so that hopefully the right idea will be noticed and put into action. If only one voice is allowed to speak, the creative process can’t occur.  Because when we are working with others, we will all see things slightly different, but that is a good thing.  By bringing all of our ideas together, letting everyone speak and listening to what each person has to say, we might be surprised to know that everyone has more in common than was at first thought, and more importantly, a  more successful plan to attack the problem or task at hand is created.

Listening isn’t easy sometimes, but continue to learn ways to become better at a skill that is sure to add quality to a multitude of areas in your life – click here to read part two.

15 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Become A Better Listener?

  1. My God! I’ve been shouting from the rooftops about this for so long. So many people just do not have the capacity to listen to another person with interrupting, giving their opinion etc. Maybe as a trained Psychologist I am more adept, but it’s a skill we can all nurture.
    Great article Shannon.

  2. Shannon — this is so true! Life is so much more enjoyable when you listen, and ask questions.
    I can’t stand having conversations wih people, and you can tell all they are thinking of is how to top your tale..

    Thank you for the wonderful reminders!!

  3. This is a useful reminder. I think most of the time I’m a fairly good listener, but then again sometimes I’m not, and I could benefit from practising being better at this. Thank you!

  4. I sound like a broken record every time I visit, but you are so amazing! I love your posts. This was is really great and reminds me so much of my husband. It drives me crazy how quiet, educated, peaceful and patient a man he is. He doesn’t mindlessly ramble…..unlike me 🙂 Awesome. XO

  5. So many wonderful quotes about listening: “There’s a reason God gave us one mouth and two ears” for instance. A friend of mine was told by a very honest mentor: “You need to take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth”. Not everyone can handle that kind of honesty but for her it marked a turning point in her life. True listening also helps you stay present as you are not thinking of what you’re going to say next!

  6. This was a perfect post for me. This is something I am always practicing but sometimes need work on. I love the part where you state stop thinking about what your going to say next so you can truly focus on the conversation. I need to do more of that. I will put this into practice this week. Like Laura – I’ve heard the two ears one mouth many times and always have to remember when i start flapping my gums.

  7. Peggy and Fritz – I think it is something everyone has to be conscious of constantly. I place myself in that category as well. It is easy to become consumed with ourselves, but to listen, to really listen truly makes a difference in the quality of our lives.

    Laura – love the quote – so very true!

  8. To help remember to listen, think WAIT, or Why Am I Talking? It’s a trick therapists use to allow clients to tell their story.

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