I’ve always been intrigued by the saying ‘we have two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we and talk’. In order to gather information about a situation or get to know another person or group it stands to reason that observing and listening to what’s being said is crucial.
Maybe it’s down to personality type or the perceived preference in Western culture for the all knowing, outgoing, charismatic leader, but it seems that the 2:1 ratio of listening to talking far too often gets reversed – or even worse. The assumption of someone who talks far more than they listen is that they are being listened to yet very few people appreciate being talked at and simply switch off.
Imagine yourself in a one-to-one discussion with someone, an interview perhaps or in a group meeting. Unless you are just there to make a speech or presentation then there will be some interaction involved. What if for a period of 30 minutes you spoke for 20 minutes and others spoke for 10 minutes. You might think that others are really interested in what you have to say but is that really the case? If you are in a position of authority then it could be that they don’t feel they can truly engage when you’re in full flow. Even for a conversation between two people out-talking the other person doesn’t make sense. A fifty/fifty split might be more appropriate but attentively listening to what’s being said takes time.
So maybe 20 minutes listening and 10 minutes talking in a group situation sounds better? It could be but it still comes across as dominating proceedings and that may not be what you’re after. Of course it depends on the context and number of people involved but dominating a discussion by talking a third of the time won’t allow you to effectively tune in to what’s really going on.
So next time you are in a group discussion or a one-to-one with someone make a conscious effort to listen far more than you talk and afterwards reflect on what differences you noticed – in yourself and others.
If only we had more than two ears we would be able to capture more information and that would enable each of us to be better informed and make better decisions.
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