Two ears and one mouth.
We were built this way for a reason.
Have you ever been in a conversation where the person you’re talking to is hearing you but is not listening? I’m sure you can remember a situation when a person you’re speaking to seems to be focused more on saying what is on his/ her mind than actually listening to what you’ve said? Recently, I found this very frustrating. While calling an ISP technical support line, I found myself trying to explain my issue, and the tech on the other side of the phone kept answering questions that I never asked. He was more focused on his training materials and what he was supposed to say. Instead, he should’ve been listening and trying to solve my problem. Good times. Not only was he sharing information that wasn’t relevant or useful; he wasn’t answering my questions or helping me solve my problem. More good times.
Here is another situation: think about the last time you had a bad experience buying a car. Did the sales person tell you what he/she thinks you want to hear, versus answering actual questions that you asked? Or how about the last time you had a conversation with one of your internal teammates or employees when you both were starting to argue, mainly because you both were hearing each other versus actually listening to each other? Have you ever thought about the true difference between hearing and listening? It can be quite frustrating when you really sit back to think about it.
Listening vs. Hearing
In my 16 years at Kforce, I’ve had the opportunity to gain valuable experience when I’ve had to master my craft in the skill set of listening. This experience came through hard work in business development and internal team building development as well, where the true art of listening has helped me build strong relationships. One of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, says in his book Outliers that “one must obtain 10,000 hours in a specific skill before they can become an expert,” and I wholeheartedly agree with him. My 10,000 hours have not been easy, but I feel that those hours have taught me to truly differentiate between “hearing” and “listening”. Listening is retaining information, whereas hearing is just obtaining noise without acting on it.
Two Ears, One Mouth
Seems pretty basic, right? I mean, we all have ears, and we all think we listen – but I would argue that we actually hear more than we listen. Listening versus hearing is something that I’ve had to work hard on, especially given how my roles have been customer facing over the tenure of my career. When you are not experienced in your job, you tend to lack confidence and worry more about what you should say. Sound familiar? Hopefully, the answer is yes. By showing vulnerability, everyone can learn how to get better. Improving your listening skills will help you improve all of your relationships in life!
“I encourage you to realize that if you truly focus on listening, you will find it much more easy to communicate and add value to the conversation, as you will start to make the transition away from just hearing people to actively listening to them.”
As I’ve mentored younger associates, I always remind them that we were created with two ears and one mouth for a reason. I express to them that we always should be letting the larger number (ears) work over the smaller number (mouth). No matter what the situation might be, focus on truly listening, by letting the other person finish their point or ask their question before you provide a response. Can you think back when you were speaking with someone and they kept interrupting you? How did that make you feel? I can tell you that I find it very annoying. I find that I will check out of a conversation quickly if the person I’m talking to doesn’t seem to care what I have to say as well.
Active Listening in your Everyday Life
If you read any of my previous articles, you will find that I am truly passionate about forming long-lasting relationships. One of the key ways that you can do this is by listening. For the next two weeks, I would challenge you to make a specific effort to listen actively. Whoever your audience is, do not interrupt. Let them finish. Let them ask you a question, and ensure that you respond with the answer to that question. After practicing this somewhat basic form of listening, I would love for you to leave a comment if you start to see stronger relationships being formed. Be authentic, genuine, and focus on listening. My hope is that you will start to see success from this “aha” moment in the future.