If I recall correctly, I think it’s Larry King who says to himself in the morning, “I will not learn anything new from what I say today,” (or something to that effect) to remind himself to listen more than he talks. There is wisdom there. While King is compelled to intently listen as part of his interviewing job, we could all use his reminder to shut up and listen – really listen – more and more in our daily interaction with people. Imagine the things we could be learning from others if only we take an extra effort to rein in our tongues and open our ears.
Of course, there are more things to listen to than merely the spoken words. In many ways, the eyes are also “ears” with which we “listen”. Gestural embellishments, nuances in facial expression, vocal intonations – they all have messages to impart (not that we interpret them accurately all the time). Anyone who’s taken a basic communication class knows as much. But not everyone is keen on attending to these nonverbal cues, to enjoy them, decode their messages, and learn from them. If you’re like me, you get caught up in the words – mostly yours.
Yes, listening is a challenge for people like me who are naturally talkative and, somehow by default, impatient. Most of the time during excited conversation, I am guilty of finishing the other person’s sentences, rudely taking over at the slightest hint of a pause. Not that I don’t pause at all, because I do, but usually it’s to catch my breath or to organize a thought; I ought to pause more often simply to listen and take in what the other person is saying. Lest you think that I am the most self-centered conversationist ever, I should announce that I am (finally) learning to listen, and discovering that it is a wondrous gift – not only to the person I am interacting with, but also to myself.
Nothing new or profoundly insightful there, really. Hmm… Perhaps people have been trying to tell me this all along… and I failed to listen?