Let's go back to our early school days. I was the one that the teacher was always saying to please stop talking. At parent/teacher conferences, my mother was always told that I was the chatterbox of the class. Never in a disrespectful way, just had self-control issues over my mouth. Actually, I was always trying to help others around me, more or less, being the 'mother hen.' Thankfully, I finally did grow out of this phase, realizing that I need to take care of my own business. Sometimes, a hard lesson to learn.
There are some that never do grow out of it. Even if you think back on your school days, did you ever have a teacher such as Ferris Bueller did? There are terms for teachers such as the one in this film who repeatedly said, "Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?" He had lulled the whole class to boredom with his monologue and very little dialogue. This kind of teacher is called the 'Sage on Stage.' They feel that they know it all, must share the information but not the stage.
Don't get me wrong. A teacher from elementary all the way up through college must talk to get some specific knowledge out. The one thing they do need to do is to limit their talk time in order to give students time to digest what they have heard, question it and share with their peers. Having a more focused discussion is much more beneficial to the learners that the 'sit and get' methodology. There was a study that took place that stated in class a teacher sometimes asks 250 questions to the students 2 - 3 questions. I would imagine that this is on the extreme side, at least I hope that it is.
Interesting enough, I did grow up to be a teacher. Without being truly coached in how I would impart information to my students, I believe that it came from my days as a student who was told over and over that she talked too much. I wanted to give my students the opportunities to talk and share what they know. It lets them know what they have to say is valued. Not only that, it teaches them how to leave the educational world and join the real world with a listen more, speak less attitude.
In meetings with adults, how many times have you witnessed one person in a group monopolizing the discussion? He did not know about the power of listening. There was a time that I was asked to talk to an employee about how she contributed to the meeting we were attending and how she thought it could have been more productive. She seemed to take offense immediately. Finally, I had to get rather blunt and just ask if she had ever thought about listening more and speaking less. This did get her attention, and not in a positive way at first, however, when I turned it around and asked her how would she feel if no one listened to her? Letting her know that there is a golden rule of listening helped. This rule is to listen to others as you would like to be listened to, which means sometimes you can say more by talking less. Silence can be golden because your ears can still hear. Take it all in before you let it out.
The ability to step back and listen demonstrates to others that you realize that you are a part of a greater world that exists outside of yourself. You actually become more selective in what you verbalize and then choose only your best ideas. Instead of listening for the point of time for you to enter the conversation and thinking of what you are going to say next, just listen. Stephen Covey states that most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen to reply. I find that sad, yet true.
Think about going to a workshop, webinar or event to hear your favorite author, only to hear them tell the story that you have already read in their latest paper or book? Most of us have a limited supply of information to throw out to our listeners so we say the same thing over and over. Save yours for the right time so that you are not repeating yourself. The rule here is when you do speak, others will be much more engaged in listening to what you have to say.
A favorite quote of mine is from Abraham Lincoln, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." By no means am I suggesting that you remain silent, just that you realize that it is easier to speak thoughtlessly, with insufficient information or by assuming the wrong ideas than it is to remain silent until you gather enough background information that you need to speak intelligently.
To be able to understand how important it is to be a good listener and to know when to stop talking, one only needs to google to find a multitude of famous quotes with articles about this subject. In this blog, I would like to end with three that seemed to say exactly what I have been writing about:
- "Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble." Frank Tyger (One reason that I believe I started listening more in school is that I did not like getting into trouble.)
- "Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens." Jimi Hendrix
- "Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak." Richard Branson (This will be the topic of a future blog so check back in at djmilestones.com.)