“We have been given two ears and one mouth so we can speak less and listen more.” This was a quote in our speech book at Cary Grove High School. I learned this lesson by the mistakes I have made in communication in the past. My husband pointed out that I often asked a person a question and then when they were responding, I’d start a conversation with another person at the table. How rude was that and yet I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Fortunately, I heeded Larry’s words and worked at changing this behavior. “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers”—Proverbs 16:20. Now that I’m a senior citizen, it’s time to express what I have learned in life. If I hadn’t been an English/Speech teacher, I probably would have been a journalist. When I wrote for the Compassion and Justice ministry at Willow, I had the opportunity to interview people from various walks of life. I found my sweet spot doing this. I looked at everyone as I would look at an interesting book and asked myself, “What can I learn from this person and what makes them tick.” “When having a conversation with someone, think of them as the most interesting person in the world. Being curious will take you away from being judgmental as well,” said Robyn Hatcher.
Toastmasters has also helped me be a better listener. I have to remember—“It’s not about me.” Listening properly means fully engaging instead of jumping in when the speaker takes a breath and bringing the topic back to me. This is also a wonderful way of making great friendships. It doesn’t mean you don’t express yourself; instead, it means waiting to hear them through. Larry had a very difficult day on a climbing trip in Montana. When he returned, he told a friend about it—- ” This was the most difficult day of my life– second to basic training as a Marine..”The response from the listener was, “Let me tell you about my retirement plan.” There wasn’t even an attempt at asking why it was the most difficult day.
But how often do we catch ourselves only thinking of our own needs and not the needs of others? “Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer,” said Ed Cummingham.
So how can we all get better at the art of listening?
Here’s an anacyrom that will help. EARS
E=Engaging-Be interested in your friend’s thoughts and opinions.
A= Acknowledge-Acknowledge the speaker-Put away distractions.
R=Repeat what the speaker said in your own words so the speaker can clarify or correct any misunderstanding.
I hope this has been helpful for you. Please respond on my website www.lifewithlarry.org to post what you have learned about the subject. My New Year’s resolution is to get better at this most important art of good listening.