Power of Listening


We are all born with two ears and one mouth.  But we generally end up talking more than listening.  Why is this so ?  May be it starts with the family, then the academic institutions and finally organisations and society.  We are always encouraged by our family, friends and society at large to communicate well and make an impression, wherever we are.  We have always been guided to outsmart everyone around us.  There is nothing wrong with this teaching.  However, it is important to realize that God may have given two ears and one mouth to all of us with a purpose, as illustrated by this kid in the photo above.

We possibly need to realize that effective communication in life means listening more and talking less.  Let us examine this from own life experiences.  Who in the family we like to spend our time most.  In all probability, it would be our mother.  This is because she would be the best listener in your family.  She listened to our non stop blabbering and the unending questions without losing her patience or cool ever.

If we move to the school or college, who was our favourite teacher ?  Its always the teacher with whom you can share all your stories – good or bad.  The teacher always created space for us.  She was ever willing to listen to us and our views .  She made us comfortable and let us experiment and fail in any situation.  On the other hand, imagine the teacher who advised you on everything in life even before you asked.  What would be your reaction ?

If we move to organisations, employees love peers or managers who lend their ears under all circumstances.  Such managers and peers attract you like a magnet.  You can laugh with them or cry with them and you can be your self.  They are non judgemental and always have the time and space for you.  On the other extreme, you meet managers who are instructing you all the time even on issues where you do not need any advice.  None of us like to work with such managers.

I have sometimes wondered as to why listening is more powerful than talking ?  I recall an incident, where I was conducting an interview of a candidate for the head of manufacturing position.  The interview lasted for an hour.  The candidate spoke for 50 minutes and I may have spoken for ten minutes.  At the end of the interview, I asked the candidate if he had observed anything in his behaviour during the interview.  He was puzzled.  When I explained to him that most of the time he was speaking and I was listening, he realised the power of listening.  I could listen to him and make my decision without speaking much.

Life is no different.  If we look at our kids.  Most of the time if we are willing to listen to their questions and chatter, they are happy.  They are more than happy even if you do not answer all their questions.  They appreciate your patience and listening skills more than your talking.  Listening is more effective in communication than speaking.

I can share another incident in my life.  My father was a government servant.  He was a very patient person.  He hardly spoke and never lost his cool.  But still his staff  adored him.  I was very curious.  I asked his staff one day as to what did they observe in him.  He responded by saying that he admired him for his calmness and patience.  This proves listening is much more impactful than speaking. 

Let us resolve to listen more and talk less from today.  It is worth a try.

S Ramesh Shankar

Words


Words have life infused in them. If used appropriately in the right context, words can add meaning to life. Words could be verbal or written. It could be prose or poetry. It does not matter. What matters is the choice of words and the occasion to use them.

Do we realise that every word we speak impacts others ? We sometimes are reckless in our choice of words. We do not realise that our children at home or our team members at work could be impacted by the words we use. If we are generous and kind, the future generations will value kindness and generosity. On the contrary, if we are rude and arrogant, the younger generation will consider that to be the best use of words.

It is equally true in written text. Today, we use emails as a norm in our personal and professional life. It is efficient and cost effective. It reaches in seconds and is transmitted seamlessly across the world. What we may not realise is that choice of words reflect our personality. Most of us are in a hurry and we do not spend enough time to choose our words. We are not bothered about the content or the target reader as long as we think we have conveyed our message.

In communication, there is a beautiful quote, which says ” I know, you believe, you understand what you think I said. But, I don’t know whether you realise that what you heard is not what I meant. ” There can always be a slip between the cup and the lip. Hence, it is important to choose every word we use – irrespective of whether we are speaking or writing.

No wonder the great statesmen in the world chose their words in speeches and in their essays. Every word was always loaded with meaning and had a context. Every word pierced your heart and you could never forget what they meant. I assume they spent a lot of time in their choice of words. They were clear of their target group and reflected on it.

I have been frivolous in my choice of words. It has made me learn a lot of lessons in life. Now, after committing many mistakes in my life, I do realise the value of words I use in life. I am cautious now both in verbal and written communication. I take my time to prepare a speech or write an article. I realise it is useful not only for me to convey my message but also helpful for the audience to get it almost as I want it to be conveyed.

Words are like an arrow. Once released from your mouth or your pen, they cannot be retracted. Hence, it is all the more reason for us to be careful. We need to choose our words and the context in which we are using them. Every word is valuable and you realise it when you are asked to convey your message in a specified number of words.

“Not the last station from the south but the first station towards the north” signifies in words the emotions of the people of north and south Korea to unite some day.  This was picturized in the photo above at the border station Dorasan of South Korea.

All of us will remember that it is tougher to write a precise than an essay on any subject.  

Do you agree ?

S Ramesh Shankar