NO coincidence –
I was listening to the news one morning while getting dressed for work, and I heard someone say, “You know, silent and listen are basically the same word.” I didn’t think much about it at first, but as I was finishing my breakfast, I realized that silent and listen are anagrams. An anagram is when you rearrange letters in a word to make a different word using the same letters.
Off all the common anagrams, this one seemed to have a deeper meaning. I did a quick Google search and came across a quote from Alfred Brendel that says, “Listen and Silent are spelled with the same letters – coincidence? I don’t think so.”
On my commute to work I received a phone call from a close friend saying they needed to vent and they wanted to know if I had few minutes to LISTEN to them. Coincidence? My friends typically call me for my advice, but this call was very specific to listening. Given the events of the morning, I graciously agreed to listen and sat on the other side of the line – SILENT.
What I learned that morning was how important it is to just listen sometimes. In today’s society, advice seems to be in abundance, but there seems to be a shortage of people actually listening. While feedback is a gift and carries a great deal of power, sometimes giving someone your undivided attention can be just as powerful, if not more, especially if that is what they need in that moment.
Most people are comfortable speaking, and if they are not, they will seek out ways to improve their communication skills. However, it is rare to find anyone actively working on improving his or her listening skills. At work and in our personal lives, listening skills are critical, because we spend most of our time interacting with others. People need to know their opinion matters (empathy), you hear them (processing) and that you are listening without judgment (acknowledgement). Among its many benefits, listening builds trust and respect, enables information sharing, and encourages collaborative problem solving.
Give people the simple gift of listening.
- Before the conversation
- Plan to limit the time you are speaking to 20-25% of the time
- Remove all distractions
- During the conversation
- Notice the speakers body language and be mindful of your own: eye contact, facial expressions and body language
- Paraphrase and asking clarifying questions
- After the conversation
- Say thank you and identify any follow-ups
Here are some of my favorite quotes about the skill of listening:
- “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” –Doug Larson
- “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” –Bryant H. McGill
- “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” –Bernard Baruch
- “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” –Stephen R. Covey
- “The art of conversation lies in listening.” –Malcom Forbes
- “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” –M. Scott Peck
- “We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.” –Diogenes