One of my favorite quotes is “You were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason.” It originated around 55 AD from Epictetus, the Greek Sage and Stoic philosopher.
In case you don’t remember what is on the other side of the comma as to why … “so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” If only people knew the power of this quote.
The Power Of Listening
In my opinion, listening is one of the most powerful tools we as human beings have, quite simply because it is the way we learn and grow. Every team has a coach for a reason, every artist a manager, every student a teacher, every protégé, a mentor. It is technically impossible to learn without being taught.
Listening To Yourself
You may be thinking, “NOT TRUE. I learned how to play basketball all on my own”… or, “ I learned Spanish without taking a single class” or maybe, “I became a successful entrepreneur on my own without being told what to do…”
What I can tell you is that you are wrong. You did listen. You listened to yourself. Let’s take one example and you can apply it to anything. Sports… Yes, you may be great at basketball, and may not have had any formal coaching or maybe never been coached once in your life. If you look back, however, we all started missing our shots before we made them. What did we do? We listened to ourselves. What did we do wrong? Why did he (or she) steal the ball from me, why did he block my shot? What did we do wrong? … We listened.
Life, if not spent listening to others should be spent listening to yourself. This is one of the reasons why I like to meditate on things a bit before making a big decision. I need to sit down with myself, get quiet, weigh the pros and cons, think about what I have learned (from LISTENING) and then make my decision.
There is a great old expression which I am guessing you have heard, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” That is the perfect example of not listening to yourself. If you head East everyday to try to catch the sunset, guess what? You are not listening.
Listening To Others
This one gets me frustrated. Believe me I know as I used to be the #1 culprit. For a very long time all I did was talk. I somehow felt the need to get in as much as possible, take a very quick breath so I could speak before anyone tried to jump in.
My North East sales manager in my first business (who turned out to be a great mentor) taught me so many invaluable lessons in business and in life. When I was on a sales call with him, he used to look at me like I had two heads after getting turned down by a customer. I would ramble, “I can’t believe he (or she) didn’t like the product, the product is great, he’s a fool, etc etc…” My sales manager would simply say, “Did you actually listen to the reason why he didn’t buy the product?” Truth is, most of the time there was a very good reason that I could have actually learned from but I was so caught up in my ego that I didn’t hear it… because I wasn’t listening.
Other times, if I actually was not given a reason, my salesman would stop me before the meeting was over and whisper, “Ask him (or her) why they are not buying the product?” Ahh, what a concept! What I found was that many times it had absolutely nothing to do with the product. It could be that the buyer was over-budget, or already carried a similar style or color, or his customer base was shifting and buying a different type of product.
By learning to listen we learn to ask great questions. I learned to ask, “What type of product are you looking for now?” Then, after getting the answer I would go back to the office, design it, make it, come back and get an order. I learned to actually find out what the customer is looking for. Imagine that! What a concept! … How did I do it? I listened.
We Need To Learn To Zip It
Life is about learning and growing (to me at least). We can’t do either one or both if we just listen to ourselves talk all day. We have to listen to ourselves listen. Big difference.
The talkers never walk, the walkers never talk.
You have a choice today. You can tell people what you are going to do, or you can actually do it and let people listen and learn from you. The thing to keep in mind, however, is whatever you do, I hope you listened to someone or listened to yourself first in order to gather enough intelligence on whatever you did before you actually did it.
The world has become filled with experts and gurus who walk around the world talking about what they do, what they did, who they are, who they know… it gets absolutely exhausting.
If I want a medical diagnosis I will go to a doctor, a legal opinion, a lawyer, etc., etc. I learn from the people I can learn from. If someone solicits my advice in an area I am somewhat informed, I will give my advice to the best of my ability. That is how I have learned to go about things today. I am still a fool, but not the fool that I used to be!
Most Information Is Free
The thing to remember is that most information is free. There is more information around then we know what to do with. The problem is our egos get in our way and cloud our judgment. Though I believe Gordon Gekko Was Wrong and information is not the most valuable commodity on Earth, I do believe it is the second most valuable thus needs our attention.
If you are finding yourself talking more than you are listening, my recommendation is to shut up and listen. It may very well be the best bit of advice you have received in quite some time. It sure was for me!