Listening is Free

I’m not sure if anyone has noticed but the world, yep, not only the US but the entire world seems divided right now. Never in my lifetime has the divide between different groups of people been wider.

Even in times of World Wars the divide was not as great as it is right now. Even during the World Wars people agreed on more things than they do today. Governments started those wars, not the people of the countries that were dragged into them.

But today is different. The universal language is one of hate. We throw the word hate around as if it almost has no real meaning. People claim to hate people who hate. “We” all hate all the hating going on these days.

We make slogans and signs about who and what matters. We talk about what must change and who must change. I’m struck by the number of people who “demand” immediate change yet refuse to look in the mirror to see if there is any change they could make personally.

Abraham Lincoln is famous for saying many things but one thing he said might be more applicable today than even the day he said it. When commenting on someone he was not particularly fond of he said, “I do not like that man. I need to get to know him better.”

Lincoln knew what too many people today seemingly have forgotten. That is that we human beings have far more in common than we give ourselves credit for. We can focus on the things that draw us together or we can focus on the things the push us apart. That’s a choice.

But that won’t happen until we do something else that seems to be a thing of the past.

That “thing” is called listening.

I mean real listening. Not reading someone’s social media posts. Not hearing some filtered version of what somebody thinks or what someone said someone said someone said. It’s a sad commentary on the world we live in but if you didn’t hear someone say it yourself then you might want to have some doubts about whether or not it was actually said.

Plus…don’t only listen to people who agree with you! Invite conversations with people who have vastly different views and life experiences than you. Do not think them wrong simply because their views are different than yours. Don’t talk to them, talk with them to determine where your views overlap. Build on that overlap!

I take great comfort from talking with people who share my views and beliefs. I like talking to my family and friends. But whatever growth I experience at this point in life comes from talking with people who frankly might not be my first choice to talk with.

You and I do not have to like the people who see the world differently than we do but we do need to understand how they view their life. We need to understand that if our life experiences were identical to theirs that our views would likely be identical too.

Most of all we need to get to know them better. The more we know about people the less chance there will be that we judge them. I want to say that again….the more you know about someone the less chance there is that you will judge them.

Listen more. Listen with your heart and your mind WIDE open. Listening is free but it just might be that it liberates you from hate. Listening is one of those things that while free it is also priceless!

Listening, really listening to different views could save you great pain. It could save your Country severe turmoil. Listening, truly truly listening to one another might even save the world.

Are You a Talker or a Communicator? Part One

Before I begin this post on communication I feel that I must point out that I’m only writing about half of the communication process. And it’s the least important half. 

 

The communication process of course involves speaking and listening. Of the two listening is far more important. Listening is how we learn. You will learn more in five minutes of listening then you will learn in a lifetime of talking. Sometime in the future I’ll probably do a post on listening, maybe right after I do that post on procrastination. But for now we are talking about the speaking part of the process. I should also point out that much of the speaking part can also apply to our written communications. 

 

Here’s something you might not like to hear but you’ll be a much better communicator if you believe it: you are 100% responsible for both parts of the communication. You are 100% responsible for everything you say and you are 100% responsible for everything the other person hears.

 

If you ever had a disagreement where the other person says “well you said…..” and then you say, “no, I said…..” then YOU have missed the mark as a communicator. If the person you’re speaking to doesn’t understand what you’ve said then the whole point of the communication has been missed. 

 

The first step in being a more effective communicator is to accept total responsibility for the miscommunication. If you simply blame the other person for their poor communication or listening skills then you will miss the opportunity to improve your own. 

 

Speak in such as way as to encourage the other person to listen. Use words and a tone of voice that draw your listener in. Talk in terms of THEIR interests to encourage them to linger on your words long enough to understand them. 

 

Don’t use a bigger word than you need to. Don’t use lingo you’re familiar with, use their lingo. Or don’t use lingo at all. Sometimes people use lingo to try and impress someone but what’s truly impressive is being able to communicate in a way that anyone can understand. 

 

What surprises me most about my own communications is how often I say something with no consideration of how it will sound to the person I’m speaking with. I just blurt it out. I mean who has time to think about what they are saying before they say it. 

 

Well, I have time. So do you. 

 

The challenge is taking 2 or 3 seconds, yep, that’s all it takes, to consider our words before we say them. There will be a bit of silence in that two or three seconds and we, well me, thinks that makes us look stupid, like we don’t know what to say. 

 

Abraham Lincoln once said something like “it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.” 

 

Talkers talk. Communicators chose their words to convey the intended message. Which one are you? 

 

I’ve been working hard at thinking about what I’m about to say for a few seconds before I say it. What I’ve found is that I often end up not saying anything. It’s like my mom always told me…if you have nothing of value to add to a conversation then perhaps nothing is what you should add. 


In the second part of this post we’ll look at some of the more technical aspects of effective communication. There are clearly methods of communication that work and methods that don’t. We’ll be looking at the ones that work! 


The Value of Being Interested in Others

It’s the kiss of death in sales, and it’s the kiss of death in networking. It is pretty much the kiss of death whenever we are trying to build a relationship. It’s when we talk too much. 

 

Often, in our desire to tell everything we know, we go on and on without letting the other person participate in the discussion. The truth is, if you’re doing most of the talking, you’re not as successful as you could be in your sales career. Your likely not as successful as you could be in life either. 

 

Here’s an idea to try. This week pay particular attention to the amount of time you spend talking versus the amount of time you spend listening. It makes no difference if your conversation is in person or on the phone. It makes no difference if it’s a work conversation or you’re talking with a friend. After each conversation make note of the percentage of time you spoke — and the percentage of the time the other person spoke. This is just for you so be brutally honest.

     

If you find yourself dominating the discussion, make a conscious effort to listen more and talk less. In a sales conversation you should be letting your customer do about 70% of the talking. In a personal conversation aim for at least a 50-50 split. 

 

In either case remember that when you’re talking you’re only repeating what you already know. When you’re listening you have the chance to learn something new. 

 

As a salesperson when you let others speak, you’ll discover your customer’s wants and needs. Your sales presentations will be more on target and others will feel that you are knowledgeable and competent. Most important, you’ll make more sales.

 

Dale Carnegie said that we can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than we can in two years by trying to get people interested in us. 


One of the fastest ways to demonstrate your interest in other people is to listen to them. Really, really listen. Put down the phone, focus on them, make them feel that they are the most important person in the world. After all, in the moment they are talking with you, they are. 

Leaders Listen

Most of us, myself included, tend to take the ability to hear for granted. We also too often confuse the ability to hear with the ability to listen.

Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences.

The best leaders listen. They are always listening. They even listen to things that they would just as soon not hear. 

Leaders make themselves available to hear the “noise” in their organizations because that’s like inside information.

Weak leaders try to silence the noise, better leaders encourage it and find a way to turn even negative noise into useful information. Think about it, would you as a leader rather pretend all is well or would you rather know where your opportunities for improvement might be?

When you listen, really really listen, you will likely hear some things you wish you hadn’t. You may even hear some stuff that isn’t true. You must also realize that part of your role as a leader requires that you have the ability to sort the good information from the not so good. (A bit of an aside here but as a leader you also do have a responsibility to stop untruths from being spread)

Authentic Servant Leaders know that good listening is the beginning of great ideas so they listen at every level of their organization. 

They also listen with more than their ears. They “listen” with their eyes to determine if what they are hearing matches with what they are seeing. They “listen” with their heart as well to determine the level of emotion attached to what was said. 

Authentic Servant Leaders understand that communication is a participative endeavor and that actually communicating requires them to listen more than they talk. 

If you’re a true leader then you certainly know that you still have much to learn. Hopefully then you also know that you’ll learn more in a few minutes of listening then you’ll learn in hours of talking. 

So listen up. Listen to what was said, listen to how it was said, listen to when it was said, and listen to whoever said it. 

You’ll never know where your next learning opportunity will come from unless you’re always listening. Anyone can teach everyone something and that means as a leader you should invest the time to hear from all of your people. 

Did you hear that?

How to be a Better Listener

I could make this the shortest post in the history of blogging by simply writing “be quiet.” 

But I won’t.

I recall a time years ago when a friend of mine was flying from Minneapolis to Tampa. That’s a fairly long flight and almost as soon as he found his seat the person next to him began talking. His seat mate talked the entire flight with my friend just interjecting a word or a nod here and there.

When the flight landed his seat mate complimented him on his terrific conversational skills. They said it was the most enjoyable conversation they had ever had on a flight. 

My friends “secret” to a great conversation was his ears. He listened well. 

If you want to be a good listener then you’re going to have to listen. Really really listen. Linger on the words of the person speaking long enough to truly hear them and not just hear them but understand them. 

Great listeners understand this simple truth: if you’re talking then you’re not listening. When you’re talking you might be able to hear what the other person is saying but you’re not listening in a meaningful way.

You’ll learn more in an hour of listening then you can learn in a month of talking so if you want to learn more then listen more and listen better.

To be a better listener understand the value of saying nothing when you have nothing of value to say. Saying less doesn’t make you a poor communicator, in fact, it just might make you a better one. 

If you really want to be a better listener then stop talking, that at least will be a pretty good start. Listening well requires focus so put the smartphone down, turn the TV off, look the other person in the eye, be quiet and LISTEN, really really listen.

Understanding Success – Part Six

Successful people get it. They simply understand some things that less successful people seem to have a hard time grasping. The things they understand are the “it’s” of success. 

This is the sixth post of an eight post series. They will be short posts, each just long enough to give you time to focus on one “it” of success until the next post arrives. The goal of this series is not to get you thinking about success, it’s to help you do the things that successful people do and less successful people don’t. The choice of success is completely up to you, always keep that important fact in mind.

While successful people are highly productive they are never to busy to listen. More important they understand the huge difference between hearing and actually listening.

You see, hearing is an involuntary process that starts with noise, vibrations, the movement of fluid in the ears and sound sent to the brain. We hear lots of things that we would just as soon not.

Listening on the other hand is a voluntary act where you try to make sense out of the noise you hear. It doesn’t matter who is doing the talking, if you’re not listening then you’re missing what could be important information that could help you succeed. 

Successful people never fool themselves into thinking they can learn anything while talking. They know that if they are talking then they are not listening and if they are not listening then they are not learning. It’s just that simple!

I think everyone would agree that communication is an essential skill for a leader. What many people fail to realize is that listening is at least 50% of the communication process. Listening is a vital skill for leaders because leaders who don’t listen will find themselves with a room full of followers who have nothing to say and those same poor leaders will mistake the silence for agreement. 

Authentic leaders focus so much on listening that they even hear, and understand, what wasn’t said. That’s outstanding listening!

Effective listening requires making some choices. The most important choice is to decide that you will listen to understand rather than merely listen to respond. Linger on the words of the person you’re speaking with until you understand their meaning. Don’t be afraid of a slight pause in the conversation, allow a moment or two to allow their words to fully register. 

Decide that everyone you talk with has something important to say. While not everything anyone says is important, you never know when brilliance will show itself so listen, really listen, and you just may discover how much other people really know.

One of the kindest gifts you can give to someone is the gift of your listening. Decide to listen as if they were the only person in your world, rid yourself of all distractions, tune out all the noise, look them in the eye and just listen.

Focus on listening rather than just hearing and you will likely be both surprised and delighted by what you will learn.

Old Ears

wpid-Photo-20150419143300778.jpgSome people have old ears.

I know, I know, you're thinking, “well, obviously, some people are old,” so they have old ears. But a person’s age has little to do with how old their ears are. It has to do with how open their mind is.

You see “old” ears has to do with hearing “it all” before. An older person can have very young ears and a younger person can have very old ears.

When a person has old ears they stop listening before the other person has finished speaking. They don’t really need to listen because they have heard it all before.

People with old ears only listen to respond. People with young ears listen and listen more until they understand what is being said. People with old ears are forced to make new decisions with stale information while people with young ears are making great decisions with current information. Young eared people never stop listening and because of that, they never stop learning either.

You can keeps your ears young by simply using them throughout the day. If there is something worth listening to then you should be listening. People who desire younger ears seek out good information and interesting people which makes it easier to listen.

Young ears are a choice and so are older ears. When you choose to listen, really, really listen then you're also choosing younger ears. When you stop listening because you have heard it all before you are giving yourself old ears and you are missing so much of life because of it.

Choose young ears and choose a vibrant life full of learning and growth. You will be surprised how fresh you can stay by filling your brain with a bit of new information each day.

It’s seems counterintuitive but again, the best way to keep your ears young is to use them. Use them to listen to a variety of opinions and people. Use them to listen to “tones” you may not like and use them hear people outside your “normal” group of influencers.

Hearing comes naturally but listening is a skill. It’s a skill we can choose to develop if we really want to learn and keep in mind, the most successful people learn something new every single day.

Are you listening?