“Never miss a chance to shut up”
I have long been a fan of Tom Peters. While browsing the web the other day, I ran into the above video of him discussing a tip for increasing the value of “Brand You”. This particular video caught my attention because it is a straight-forward message that seemed crafted specifically for me. The bottom line is that many of us miss opportunities and information because we talk too much and listen too little.
Michael Staver, author of Do You Know How to Shut Up? agrees. In an article he wrote for the American Management Association, he said, “Shutting up is a valuable skill in business, in personal relationships—really, in all areas of life. By shutting up once in a while, you will appear more confident and intelligent. Plus, it’s amazing how much you can learn when you stop talking and actually listen.”
However, don’t just listen, learn how to listen actively. According to an article entitled “Learn to Listen” in the July edition of “Executive Matters” (a members-only electronic newsletter from the American Management Association) there is a significant difference between active and passive listeners. Passive listeners offer their employees or colleagues the opportunity to express themselves, however, they are missing significant opportunities to deepen understandings and relationships. Active listeners, on the other hand, not only take time to hear, but try to interpret and demonstrate interest in what is being communicated as well. Adding these two actions can make a world of difference to the speaker.
So, as my mother used to remind me regularly, “You have two ears and one mouth. God did that for a reason.” Talk less and listen more. But, listen actively. Ask questions to make sure you understand. Validate others’ point of view. Become as interested in what they are thinking as in what you wish to say and you will learn a great deal. Further, you will build much better relationships, too.
As always, if you agree (or don’t) please comment!
Call to action:
- For the next several days, work to keep quiet and actively listen.
- After each interaction, ask yourself if you actively or passively listened.
- Find someone you trust to act as your “Shut up and listen” coach. Ask them to read my blog post, watch the video and then provide feedback as to where you might improve.
You might be surprised by what you find. I know I was pleasantly surprised to see how well these skills worked in my interactions with my staff. They seemed pleasantly surprised by my renewed interest in them and their ideas. And the interesting thing was, that I was interested in them, before. However, listening without interruption, asking them questions about their thoughts, and paraphrasing their ideas back to them made me seem much more interested than in the past.