blog | 3min Read
Published on January 20, 2021
‘Be quiet and listen.’
I think we’ve all heard this throughout our lives, and sometimes still do. It can seem like a reprimand, or a dull repetitive sound, based on how many times you’ve heard it and who’s saying it. Most often it’s teachers or parents.
But they aren’t the same thing.
Being quiet and listening are two entirely different actions. This is a myth which has been drilled into our head. And I’m sure the more you think about it, the more you realise how false it is. How many times have you sat quietly in class, but zoned out from your teacher.
And that is the biggest drawback of our high schools. We are never taught how to listen. We have to be quiet during assembly or class, but apart from that we are taught to be ‘Good Orators’. Listening doesn’t really figure in our school’s priorities. You can’t really quantify a good listener, you can’t give a certificate or an award, and you can’t have a high school student stand up on stage and just ‘listen’.
So we need to learn this skill on our own. Why? Because that’s the only way to learn. To actually learn. Not exam syllabus learn, but practical learning which you can actually use in your life. We might think that we’re great listeners, but nobody is going to tell you if you’re not. Only you can figure out if you’re giving the other person enough time to talk.
And it’s important to do that. People are attracted to good listeners because they feel like they’ve been truly heard. People often go deeper and share things that they haven’t before. That forms deeper bonds. Now just imagine the same thing in a work environment, or in a college environment. That’s how you build lasting relations.
We’re often afraid of letting that silence hang in a conversation, so we quickly rush to fill it. We also get that sense of FOMO that we’ve spoken to this one person enough, we need to move on to something else or someone else. We are that restless generation, and this is a good way to just slow down.
Consider this, can you be a musician if you don’t listen? Listen to other musicians? Or to what you play yourself? It’s the same thing. Listening is engaging with another person, and giving them your focus, allowing them to speak. If you want them to listen to you when you talk, why wouldn’t you do the same? Even if you disagree with someone if you let them talk you allow them the space to breathe, making them more receptive to your thoughts. Otherwise, it’s just two people talking over each other and nobody listening.
So why bother about this while you’re still in high school? Because good listeners make great future leaders. Think about it. If you go to a leadership workshop, would you listen or talk? If you wanted to start a business and went to an entrepreneurship workshop, would you listen or talk? A leader is someone who takes the time to listen to people, understands the problem, and then comes up with a solution. What kind of leader comes up with solutions before he even hears the problem? That is a recipe for disaster and bankruptcy.
Now how do you become a better listener?
Give them your attention. Make eye contact, but don’t stare daggers at them.
Don’t interrupt, let the other person complete their point.
Ask questions that cut deeper.
Read their body language. Listen to the non-verbal cues as well.
Check your own body language. Don’t stand with folded hands or move restlessly.
Use affirmative responses to let them know you’re with them.
Don’t give moral arguments that can stop a conversation.
Nobody likes a person who talks too much. But another way of looking at it is that nobody likes a person who doesn’t listen enough. This is something you learn over a period of time, generally by making mistakes. But you’ll get there. Always remember that a good conversation isn’t between two great speakers, it’s between two great listeners.