Monday, January 4, 2010

What Everybody Ought to Know About Listening

We've been taught how to talk and to walk. But many of us haven't been taught how to listen. It's why many of us are limping.

My little word of advise: Ask and listen.
Photo Credit: "Plug it in, please" by Patricil Complex

There are five quotes about listening that I wish to share with you today. To me, they express very well the great attributes of listening.

Quote #1
"Most of the successful people I've known are the ones who do more listening than talking."
~ Bernard M. Baruch

Quote #2
"If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut."
~ Albert Einstein

Quote #3
"Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk."
~ Doug Larson

Quote #4
"To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well"
~ John Marshall

Quote #5
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
~ Winston Churchill

Perhaps there are more attributes about listening that you find as important or even more important. Bring them on!

But what you may see right now is the almost direct correlation between listening and success. It is what successful people do. It is what leads to wisdom.

Most importantly, listening is an exercise of courage. In other words, you want to know what stuff you're made of? Listen!

Indian hunters listened a lot. Movies are our only way of catching a glimpse of how Indians lived in America before the colonizers came. But they are portrayed to scan the surrounding for the slightest movement and let their ears catch the slightest sound.

Most of us don't listen like these warriors, I think. We are bombarded with a lot of sounds, we no longer know which one to listen to.

This is why asking questions is important, because then you know what to listen to. Our brain has a Reticular Activating System that filters out what's not relevant to us and focuses our attention on the relevant -- in the midst of noise going on around us.

Let me illustrate.

I was driving along a bottle neck along EDSA Highway (the main artery of Metro Manila). Traffic ground to a halt and the sound from a hundred engines filled the air. Horns of irritated drivers added to that.

Street vendors sold candies and peanuts to motorists that day. My wife wanted to buy something to chew and so I pressed my horn twice in two quick successions, beep-beep! At first I doubted that we would catch the attention of the vendor a hundred meters away.

Lo and behold, in the middle of all those noise, his neck turned towards our direction and quickly scanned his eyes to find out where the beep-beep came from. I made another beep-beep and he found us. My wife couldn't believe it.

That vendor knew exactly what to look for. He listened. He responded.

That is exactly what we do in today's world. We throw a question and we listen to the answers. We filter out the rest.

Contrast that to the behavior of a restaurant I went to one day. I sat for about five or ten minutes and no one approached me, not even look. I was actually wondering whether they were in business!

Nope, they were not. Their reticular activating systems were focused somewhere else. The whole crew was busy feeling good around a celebrity who went in ahead of me.

They were distracted. Poor guys, I went to another restaurant.

Listening isn't rocket science, isn't it? But how good are you at doing that?

My little word of advise: Ask and listen. Be like that vendor in the story, and learn from the restaurant waiters who ignored a customer. Make sure the questions you ask are in alignment with what you want, because you just might get it. More abut what you really want in the next post.

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