“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
Question: what one action fosters unity, common understanding, mutual respect, healing, better decisions, more effective management, stronger marriages, families, and friendships, and greater empathy, civility, harmony, knowledge, and perspective? (I think we can all agree these are worthy causes!) Answer: Listening. If we dedicated ourselves to becoming better listeners. I believe it would change the world.
So, what about making 2017 a year when we do more listening and “sharing with” and less “talking to?” A year when we fully engage with each other to forge stronger relationships and greater understanding? And, maybe a year when we celebrate what unites us instead of focusing so much on our differences?
From my perch, this would go a long way in healing our nation, our communities, our families, and ourselves. Here’s what I’m observing:
- Almost everything today has become politicized, with people holding entrenched views and often vilifying others simply for having different opinions or solutions (as if this will persuade). We’re talking/shouting at each other, rather than sharing our perspectives and seeking common ground. We’re spending most of our time with people who share our views rather than respectfully engaging and listening to others with different points of view (hello college administrators!). This polarizes and divides, rather than unites, and it’s impairing our relationships, mutual understanding, and civility.
- Technology is significantly interfering with interpersonal engagement and is eroding our relationships. (Question: was this ever listed as a potential side effect when we bought our smartphones?!?) We’re allowing ourselves to be distracted when we’re together, without realizing how this devalues others.
- Our careers are so consuming and our schedules so full that we aren’t preserving the needed time to nurture, guide, and listen to our children as we should.
- Businesses are often so consumed with their bottom lines that they’re not fully engaging all that their employees have to offer. Some are even expecting 24-7 responses to emails, which is interfering with family time.
So, where do we go from here? Perhaps if we try these out, we can reverse course:
- When we’re enjoying the company of others, we adopt a no-device rule (unless we are using them together). We fully engage with our eyes, ears, and body language.
- We adopt the 40/60 rule in how much we talk versus listen in our conversations. (Note: with parents, it should be more like 30/70!)
- We spend more time trying to understand each other rather than persuade each other. We keep our conversations constructive and strive to find common ground where it exists (we might discover that our goals are the same but our methods are different!).
- We reserve time to invest in our relationships and fully engage
- We exhibit self control, respect, and civility when we differ
- We listen to positive influences and tune out others
- We seek out varying perspectives in forming our views, making decisions, and teaching students (college administrators, take note)
- We put our employees first when we manage our businesses
- We take time to listen to our spirit, to pray if we are so inclined, and to bask in the beauty and tranquility of nature. Someone once said that “silent” and “listen” are spelled with the same letters. How cool!
As someone who tends to be outgoing and opinionated, this may be among the most convicting blogs I’ve ever written. But, I’m committing myself to do better in 2017 and beyond. I hope these ideas work for you, and the people you’re influencing, too.