‘We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.’
Epictetus, Greek philosopher c. AD 55-c.135
We’ve all got something to say; we all want to be heard, to get our message across to those around us. We all want to contribute – don’t we? We all want to add to things. We all want to be understood. What we want to avoid though is to ‘bang on’ (a great expression my husband Snowy uses). To be the person who dominates a conversation or sucks up the time in a meeting so there’s little time for anyone else.
Two points here to bring out.
Firstly, to listen doesn’t mean just waiting for your turn to speak. It means to give your attention to someone or something. Give your attention – not wait for the pause.
This is so important to define, laying it out here for you is to remind you of all the times you’ve told a story or put a point across and the second you’ve finished (and often before) someone grabs the pause and says something like ‘yes, that reminds me of when I etc’ or ‘I’ve got something to say on that etc’ or, worse still, ‘I can top that’ as if it’s a competition.
Secondly – and here’s a big piece about being understood. We learn so much more.
- We learn about what’s going on with the other person and/or the situation.
- We learn about how the other person is thinking; what their position is on something before we commit ourselves to our own position;
- We pick up on things that are going on whilst the other person is speaking that often define what – if anything – we want to say about the subject.
- We give ourselves time to think – something that is so often undervalued. Time to think and decide if we actually want to respond or if we want to ask a few more questions. Let’s show we’re interested, because we are – aren’t we? We’re interested in the other person.
Understanding others, understanding a situation better, understanding what’s going on or what went on is all about being able to be better understood ourselves.
The way we do that, is to listen more than we speak and ask more than we tell.