Hey, listen! Listen.
Listen to the silence.
Listen to the noise.
Listen to the birds chirp, the clock tick, the babies giggle, and the wind blow.
Oh! You can’t hear those sounds? Why not? Are you too busy talking?
How many times do we stop our own voice and listen to another’s? Yeah, that’s what I thought. How many times do we wait — as patiently as we can — for the other person to pause (even for a microsecond) so we can just
jump right in with our own stuff?
We weren’t listening . . . we were waiting. Not the same thing at all.
A couple of years ago I went out on a first (and last) date with a guy who was maybe full of himself or maybe just nervous; I never determined exactly. Maybe a third option existed. Maybe even a fourth. We had talked on the phone the day before, and for about 30 minutes, all he did was talk. Seriously.
He talked about himself for 30 minutes straight.
Well, not so good, but I thought we at least made a tiny connection, and he offered to take me to lunch the next day. He also offered to drive about 30 minutes to go to a restaurant near my home, one he’d gone to before and enjoyed.
So, OK. I figured I’d give him a chance. But I also heard that little voice in my head saying, “Watch out. He’s probably gonna talk your ears off again.”
That little voice knew something.
I watched him get out of his very nice car, look me up and down, sort of smile, and then launch back into the “talk till I drop” mode. I think he picked up where he had left off the day before. He had to stop when we got to the front reception desk to give his name, and while we were walking to our table, but then he started up again.
He talked pretty much nonstop for the next 90 minutes.
Did he ask me any questions or exhibit any interest in me at all? Sort of. You see my headline above, right? Yeah, about like that. He hijacked every point I made, each time showing me his version of things for five or ten minutes. It was just easier for me to nod, eat, and plot my escape.
Oh, did I mention he made almost no eye contact? And that the one thing he focused on with me was my rotten marketing efforts for my own business?
You know you can’t make this stuff up, right?
Reality: When we talk about ourselves nonstop, no matter the situation, we turn almost everyone else off. We can come across as anything from arrogant to clueless. Sometimes we get the other person so upset we don’t recover the relationship, whatever it was or might have been. Sometimes, when we’re talking to a prospective client, we lose a sale.
And this post, which I first published in June 2015, was originally sparked by a story written by Bob Musial. Then, a few days ago, Larry Boyer, a beBee Brand Ambassador, wrote one along these lines, which prompted me to find my original one, dust it off, and republish it for those who never saw it.
I do listen more carefully to that little voice in my head these days; it is mine, after all. I also talk a little less and listen a lot more to others, as you can see from my recent post on “Premature Solicitation.”
So the burning questions for you, my readers: What does listening mean to you? How do you quiet your own voice? Do you have a great story that makes this point, too? I would love to see it and share it with my network. Let’s continue to learn from each other’s goofs and triumphs!