Sorry, Were You Talking?

man cupping ear to listenBy Cindy Campbell

You’re probably familiar with the important concept of talking less and listening more. Author Susan Cain once wrote, “We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally.” It’s troubling, then, that so many abandon the practice of listening as they climb the ladder of success. Instead, they fall victim to the notion that because of their professional position, their thoughts and words are somehow more valuable than those of others.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pointing outward on this topic. Even with the best intentions, I’ve been guilty of talking too much and listening too little in the past. It can happen to any of us for a number of seemingly good reasons. We’re too busy with the tasks at hand, we may have specific knowledge or experience others haven’t gained yet, or perhaps we’ve received accolades for doing such a good job that we assume we have all the best answers. Whatever the reason, if we start to believe the hype then little by little, we devote less time to actively listening to those around us. In my case, I came to recognize that I was listening less to the thoughts and experiences of others in a misplaced effort to complete tasks for the sake of efficiency.

Ask yourself: Do I model good listening habits? If you aren’t sure, perhaps it’s time for a self-check. How much do you speak when compared with others in your organization? How strong is your tendency to speak more than others? Is your communication style limiting or inhibiting others’ desire to share? When we’re unable to listen more than we talk, we risk the possibility that others will eventually give up and stop trying to help problem-solve.

Take it from an over-communicator: If you can’t listen, you can’t effectively mentor others. At times, it can feel uncomfortable to simply listen without commenting, but the effort is well worth it.

Cindy Campbell is IPMI’s senior training and development specialist.