We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. – Epictetus
What does that mean?
Somehow, I imagine this was an old saying before Epictetus latched on to it. It certainly survives to this day, as evidenced by quite a number of parents trying to convince their young children to speak less and listen more.
And that’s what the quote is about as well. How much better off would we be if we were a little more quiet, and were more attentive in our listening? I know that I can get long-winded at times.
However, there are some people who can go on talking for what seems like hours, rarely pausing, and never giving up the floor. Natural born filibusterers, I guess. But how much fun are they to be around?
This quote, while not stating it specifically, does seem to be urging us to shut up. It states to listen twice as much as we speak, but it is rarely that mathematical. I believe we need to be listening as much as possible, and speaking only when we have something useful to contribute.
Why is listening important?
That is most easily answered by asking this question: How much do you learn by talking? Yes, you may be able to talk your way through a problem and come to an answer from simply talking, but that’s usually the exception, and not the rule. What about listening, do you learn that way? I know I do.
Do you tend to gain friends or drive them away by talking on and on, and not listening to them? Conversely, if you spend more time listening to your friends and less time talking to (or worse yet, at) them, do you tend to gain or lose friends? I have noticed that people tend to gain the most when listening.
So listening more than we talk tends to help us with learning and with gaining friends. What other parts of your life might improve if you talked a little less and listened a little more? Might it be helpful at work, or in your social life? Might that be something to consider?
Where can I apply this in my life?
I imagine you can apply this quote each and every time you plan to open your mouth. Ask yourself if you really need to say what is on your mind. Is it sufficiently obvious, or do you need to clarify something? Is it just saying “Me too!” or do you have a significantly different idea?
It is easy to get on a roll, and chat up a storm. But how are others around you taking it? How many people have walked off since you started talking? Has a mealtime come and gone and you’re still talking? OK, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration for all but the most talkative, I hope you get the idea.
I imagine you can apply this quote each and every time someone else is using their mouth. How often do you truly pay attention and listen closely to what others are saying? It is very easy to spend the time you aren’t talking figuring out what you are going to say next, right?
Some of us are day-dreamers, and can have our thoughts wander off when someone starts talking about something which is not of any great interest. Staying focused on what they are saying helps them feel connected, and gives us the chance to learn something.
To me, those are the two primary reasons to follow this quote, to feel more connected with others, and to learn things. The first grows your circle of friends and acquaintances, and the second grows your mind. Both are very useful things in their own right, but together, that’s a real good thing.
When do you tend to talk too much? Do you have a favorite topic, one which you can talk about for hours and hours and hours? Or perhaps you have a story you like to tell, one which everyone has heard before, but you keep saying it over and over and over and over?
What can you do to help yourself notice you’re talking too much? Can you get a friend to give you a sign to shut up and let someone else talk? Or perhaps you don’t have this problem, but you have a friend who does. How would you broach the subject and how can you help them solve it?
How much better would your life, or your that of your friend, be if only there was a little less talking and a little more listening?
From: Twitter, @philo_quotes
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/epictetus106298.html
Photo by Don Johnson 395
- Grandpop I Am Not Done Talking! (rob-berman.com)
- The Third Ear: A Powerful Tool To Becoming A Better Listener (openforum.com)
- ROMANTIC Hint 13: “BE THE HARE” (asktimi.wordpress.com)
- Ability to listen (krissleaf.wordpress.com)
- The Missing Link: Listening Skills (alexandriasmallbusiness.com)