I had the opportunity to lead a group discussion on listening this week.
It was an awkward position. Teaching on listening, while doing most of the talking.
Many of our moms or grandmas probably used to say, “The Lord gave you two ears and one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you speak.”
But most of us, at least those closer to the “ex” than the “in” on the –trovert scale flip that ratio.
We talk. A ton.
We talk to fill space. We talk to push our agendas. We talk to prove a point.
And even when we “listen”, it’s oftentimes to simply wait until the other person is finished, so we can jump right back in.
Like we have two mouths and one ear.
When you encounter a real listener though, it’s a show-stopper. If you’re like me, you leave their presence changed, understood, appreciated.
Here is how one author, Brenda Ueland, describes it:
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The people who really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and want to sit in their radius as though it did us good.”
As though it did us good. Wow.
Why is that?
Because it’s so rare.
We’re used to fighting and jockeying to prove our point, get our words across, make sure we look smart.
But most times, we need to shut up and listen. At least I do.
One practical way to do that is to become a better question-asker. Questions display interest. Interest leads to curiosity. Curiosity leads to understanding. Understanding leads to care. Care leaves people changed.
At work, in our homes and in our social circles, what are three benefits of establishing, reinforcing and fighting for a listening culture?
1. Trust is Established – if we’re constantly playing verbal ping-pong with the back and forth striking and lobbying for our own words, trust has a tough time penetrating the game. But lob a bunch of questions instead? Watch the trust seep through.
2. Transparency Emerges – once trust is established, it opens the door for transparency. It allows people the safety to know they can open up and not be harmed with the information they share.
3. Truth is Engaged – if we are in a culture that has a foundation of trust where people are free to be transparent, the truth then comes to the surface. Lies, deceit and manipulation begin to fall away because the need to prove is gone. In its place, the truth begins to drive the conversation, creating healthy pathways for future connection.
It’s tough, but I’m realizing the power of listening. I have two ears, I might as well use them.