A tortoise had become friendly with two geese who promised to take it to their home in the mountains. The plan: The geese would hold a stick in their beaks while the tortoise would grasp it in the middle with his mouth, but he must be careful not to talk. During the journey, villagers below made fun of the tortoise. When it answered back, it fell to its destruction.
You guessed the moral: Talking at the wrong time can lead to fatal consequences!
1. Are you the first to air your knowledge when your favorite topic comes up?
2. Do you interject your opinion before anyone else has a chance to speak?
3. Do you tune out what others are saying because you are busy thinking of a comment?
I’m just guessing here, but you were probably the 3rd grader whose hand was the first to shoot up when your teacher asked a question. And I must say I am guilty as charged. Just see the Cliff and Marian misunderstanding below.
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Hearing and listening are not the same thing. The difference between the sense of hearing and the skill of listening is attention, says Seth Horowitz in a New York Times piece.
The Harvard Business Review blog reveals that one in four corporate leaders have a listening deficit. No surprise there! In the business world, failure to listen can muddle the lines of communication, “sink careers, and if it’s the CEO with the deficit, derail the company.” In our personal lives, muddle and mayhem can result.
Good advice for better listening? First of all, slow down. While listening seems like such a passive thing to do, it is essential for understanding. Secondly, consider the source. “Try to understand each person’s frame of reference—where they are coming from.” Disagreements can often be averted with skilled listening.
Studies show that thoughts move about four times as fast as speech. No wonder it’s so hard to slow down and actually listen.
Here is the beginning of a list of tips for good listening:
1. Give full attention to whoever is speaking.
2. Don’t interrupt. Let the other person finish before you begin speaking.
3. Listen with your face as well as your ears. It’s appropriate to smile, frown, laugh, be silent at times when you are in conversation.
Read Shirley Showalter’s article “Listen Up: How Good is Your Listening Quotient?” here.
A Cliff and Marian Misunderstanding
Sometimes listeners with a lot of practice get muddled up. Here is a “He said / She said” from our own experience:
Marian: Let’s eat out today.
Cliff: Wonderful idea. (Time passes – Cliff leaves and comes home about dinner time noticing I’m in the middle of meal preparation.)
Cliff: I thought we were eating out this evening. Why, I had some ideas about where we would go.
Marian: For goodness sake, I was thinking that it would be nice to eat outside on the patio because it’s so cool.
Cliff: But I thought you meant we were eating out, like in a restaurant!
Listening in the Longenecker Family 1950s
Living in the Longenecker family in the 1950s, we children were taught to listen, pay attention. In a parent-centered household, we listened to directions about chores, instructions about what to do and what not to do. To balance things out though, we also listened to Daddy singing as he played the guitar or the piano, or to Mother singing off-key in the kitchen. “I’ll be somewhere, listening, I’ll be somewhere listening, I’ll be somewhere listening for my na-aa-mm-e . . .
Please add your own tip, an observation, or an anecdote about listening or the lack thereof.
Coming next: Another Moment of Extreme Emotion