Monday, January 12, 2015

Do You Hear What I Hear?

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” ~ Epictetus

Epictetus, the Greek philosopher, definitely had sage words about the importance of the listening portion of a conversation (an informal exchange of ideas using words).  I realize that at some point in my life, either I or the person I have been talking with was guilty of doing one of the following:

  • Been so excited about something or some event that they monopolize the conversation (also known as diarrhea of the mouth) and if it were not for stopping to take a breath, the other person would not get a word in edgewise
  • Heard someone say something that they could not hold back and cut them off to answer 
  • Someone says something and in your mind you begin to think of an appropriate answer while they are still talking?  Then, when they stop talking and you are ready with your answer, you realize that you did not hear the point they were really making?
  • Spoken to someone that is more interested in what is on his or her phone then paying attention to you? 
  • Talked to someone that constantly interrupts what you are saying, because, maybe, they see themselves as THE expert 

I know there was a time in my life where I thought that every conversation included a portion that today I call “I know a little bit more than you.”  This meant that when someone told a story, related an incident, or told a joke, the next person (me, in many cases), needed to engage in the game of one-upmanship or I can top that.  It did not matter if I was familiar with the topic or not, I used to be eager to play this game.  Of course, in the case of telling jokes, everyone wins because sharing a joke is always fun.  When no jokes are involved, engaging in this game has the tendency to make one person look as if they are trying to appear smarter than the other people do.  I remember visiting an uncle in Florida and in my mind, it was game on from the moment I said “Hello.” I am grateful my father used a firm hand to help correct this misunderstanding on my part.  As I got older, I was able to recognize when I was doing this.  A conversation should not be about proving who is smarter.

So, why is listening so important? 

  • We all have active minds, and it takes discipline to remain focused on the person speaking. 
  • When meeting a new person, stay in the moment and be attentive will help in making a connection. 
  • Listening to others’ words, opinions or feelings, shows you care about what they are saying. 
  • Provides a better way to communicate because you can relate their responses to the point you might want to make.

As Teddy Roosevelt stated, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  When you listen, it has the tendency to draw people into the conversation and besides for showing that you care, it makes them feel more involved.  Something we all can work on this year…