Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble. – Frank Tyger
What does that mean?
This one has been said many times by many people. Two ears, one mouth; use in proper proportions. I’m fairly certain that all of you have something like this at some point in your lives, and quite possibly said it a time or two yourself.
When you listen, it’s hard to get in trouble. Trouble is usually your mouth. Saying things, laughing, smirking, these are the activities that get you in trouble. If all you do is listen, it becomes very hard for that mouth thing to get you in trouble.
Why is listening important?
Listening is one of our primary methods of gathering information. Some people are keyed to learning by listening (auditory). I’m not, but even then, I understand the importance of having good listening skills.
Listening is good life skill to have, as it will come in handy throughout your life. In school, you have to listen as part of the learning experience. In relationships, you have to listen to be able to understand (or try to, at least) where the other person is coming from, or what their point is. Listening will even be important at work, where you combine learning, relationships and planning (among other skills) to succeed.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Well, we hit on a few in the paragraph above. How would you apply it to school (or how did it work for you, if school is in your past)? How often did you get in trouble while listening (and I don’t mean to a radio)? And how often did your mouth get you in trouble? Sounds like a series of experiences all favor the quote.
How well has the listening vs talking thing worked for you in relationships? Start at childhood, how did it work there? Did you do better when you mostly listened, or when you mostly talked? As a teenager, how did it go? And with your first few dates, how well did that work? In your first serious relationship, how many times did either of you say “you’re just not listening”? We could go on for a while, but I think you see a pattern, right?
How about work? Can you think of many jobs that have you talking more than listening? Unless you’re a teacher, a tour bus talker or a DJ, you probably spend more time listening than talking, right? And how many times did your ears get you in trouble? Well, not counting the time you got caught with your ear up against the boss’s door… 😯
So, I think we can agree that the pattern described in the quote has some validity in our daily lives, both past and present. I also believe it safe to project that the quote will still be valid in the future (with the possible change to reading posts not getting you in trouble, but posting just might).
How does one become a good listener, or at least a better listener? I would start with it’s counterpart, talking. Talking and listening, at least for me, are mutually exclusive activities. If I’m talking, I’m not listening, and vice versa. This would be a matter of conscious competence, where you notice you’re talking too much and simply shut up.
Once you have your mouth under control, it’s time to tune up your ears. I don’t know about you, but when I am in an argument, I’m spending more time working on my rejoinder than I am on actually listening and attempting to understand the other person. How about you, is that something you do as well?
I would work on my concentration. Try to block out all other thoughts and try to listen as closely as you can. This is what you would do (I hope) when listening to a loved one explaining why they are sad or feeling hurt. The trick is to care as much about what a stranger, boss or co-worker is saying as you would for a loved one.
For me, the biggest change came when I realized that everyone is important, just not as important to me as someone else might be. Once I started changing my attitude and made strangers, bosses and co-workers more significant, it became easier to listen to them and not hear the Charlie Brown Teacher sound (the trombone with a plunger mute – Wah Wah Wah).
Listening, like any other skill, will take practice and repetition. Don’t give up if you fall back into old habits, just renew your pledge to yourself to do better next time. Keep at it and you will become a skilled listener. When you rarely speak, people are more likely to listen. When you speak all the time, you are nothing but noise. 8)