Why Listen?

February 12, 2015

why listen

“Pray tell us the secret to peace on Earth!”  the bare chested, inebriated thirty something yelled out to me while he was raking leaves on his lawn and bantering with an equally smashed neighbor who was doing the same.

I had been walking to my office in Santa Monica, California, when I passed these two who stopped their exchange momentarily so that the above man could speak out to me.

Surprised, I replied, “What?”

The first man repeated in a just below slurred voice, “I said, ‘pray tell me the secret to peace on Earth so that yee may pass.’”

I shrugged my shoulders and kept walking and they returned to their banter, not knowing that I have trained FBI and police hostage negotiators and was pretty quick on my feet.

I kept walking and within five seconds I was in front of the second man, at which point I yelled back to both of them, “I’ve got it!”

They looked at me and then together said, “You’ve got what?”

I said, “I’ve got the secret to peace on Earth.”

The first man then remembered what he’d asked and in a dumbfounded and dumbstruck manner yelled back, “Okay.  What is it?”

At which point I yelled back, “Listen more than you talk.”

With that, they looked and then nodded to each other, and the first man said, “Well, Sir Good Knight, yee may pass!”

If you ask most people how important listening is to effective communication, they will respond, “Very.”

However, if you observe people in conversation, more often than not it will appear that talking and being listened to is more important than listening.

And the evidence?

  1. How rarely you will notice one person asking the other person to elaborate or clarify what they are saying.
  2. How frequently you will notice one person interrupting the other person to hijack the conversation to an entirely different topic.
  3. How rarely if you ask one person to explain what they understand from what another has said that they will be accurate. If they’re close, their error is a claim based on an assumption that is inaccurate.
  4. How frequently you will notice one person interrupting the other person to take issue, refute, or be plain dismissive of what they are saying.

Since increasingly more people act, even unintentionally so, in the above manner, other than being politically correct or just being polite, truthfully answer me “why listen?”

If you’re at a loss for answers, perhaps the following two-part exercise might help.

Listening to Increase Future Possibilities

Part 1: Imagine in your mind’s eye asking someone who truly cares about you, “Going forward what do you think would be the positive effect on my success, happiness, and relationship with you if I were to become a better listener? Little, Moderate, or Large? And why?” What would they say?

Listening to Repair Past Damage

Part 2: Imagine in your mind’s eye asking the same person, “What has been the negative effect on my success, happiness, and our relationship when I have been a terrible listener? Little, Moderate, or Large? And how?” What would they say?

Given the future possibilities of becoming a better listener and the past damage at having been terrible at it, would you want to become a better listener starting now?

If so, enrollment is now open to take American Management Association’s 2-day course, “Just Listen: Getting Through to Others” at locations across the country.

Through teaching, highly interactive training, and video appearances by me, you will learn everything I have learned in 30+ years as a clinical psychiatrist, business consultant, executive coach, and FBI and police hostage negotiation trainer. In addition, you will receive an autographed copy of my book, Just Listen” Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.

As we all know, much of training is going online. However, if you find yourself more able to learn and internalize learning when you can extract yourself from your company and fully immerse yourself with other people doing exercises with you in real time, you will probably want to check out these courses.

If you need to make the case to your company for attending such an offsite in-person training program, just tell them you learn better when you can pull yourself away from the hundreds of distractions you have while at your job.

The first training will be done by my partner, Chief Learning Officer and master trainer, Dr. Sandra Vogel. I guarantee you’ll learn amazing things with her, because since she and I have become partners, she has taught me things I didn’t think I could learn and that I’ve put into action.

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The best communicators are often the most insightful listeners. Enhance your communication skills with these AMA resources and seminars.

About The Author

Mark Goulston is a psychiatrist, business consultant, executive coach, and former FBI and police hostage negotiation trainer. Trained as a clinical psychiatrist, he helps people increase their ability to get through to anyone. He presents many of these skills in his book, JUST LISTEN: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (AMACOM 2009). Goulston is a member of the International Leadership Association. He has provided training, executive coaching, and consultation to many companies and organizations, including GE, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Xerox, Deutsche Bank, Hyatt, Accenture, ADP, State Farm Insurance, Astra Zenica, Bristol Myers Squibb, Kaiser Permanente, Kodak, Federal Express, FBI, Los Angeles District Attorney, White & Case, Seyfarth Shaw, UCLA, USC, and Pepperdine University.

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