Listening Really Means “Waiting”…

What is it you hear?

Most people reading this post have heard at least at some point in their life that “you are born with two ears and only one mouth, so you need to listen twice as much as you talk“.  However the issue with this axiom is the atypical person your speaking with also has two ears and a single mouth.  So if you both talk half and listen twice as much, who will in the end do the speaking?

While this might only be poetic license applied to semantics, as the moral of the story here is the person approaching us is the one wishing to speak, so therefore we should listen to them out of courteous attention.  However at least in my world, things are never this orderly and clean as most conversations are formed in an ad-hoc manor so the order of this simplistic tango typically fails to be text book clear in most cases which leads to a bit of toe stepping if you will with ones conversational dance partner.

So what is a good leader to do in the case of an ad-hoc tango be it a personal or professional verbal engagement?  Here we will look back at the subject as what is our natural reflex as we are listening to others speak?  Ok, be honest with yourself, you want to talk as the longer you listen to your cohort, the words seem to just well up in your head. Sometimes this urge builds slowly to the point of an unsurpassable itch which must be scratched no matter its location if you know what I mean.  Other times it’s an abrupt reflex such as the rush of an avalanche down the Swiss Alps till it strikes the bottom releasing its fury.

To better understand this urge, and therefore better understand the role of a leader in a conversation we need to look at the concept of “waiting” as what does that mean?  Well, if we look at the rote concept of “waiting” it is typically a means of deferring our own achievement of gratification in exchange for something else.  However what in the conversational arena is the something else we could be delaying for? Is this game play a kin to Monte Hall’s “Let’s Make a Deal” as we don’t know what is behind door number two, however we are willing to risk the blender in hand for the potential of a car only to get a booby prize?

As many pop-culture self help books tell us that if we are “waiting” then we are not listening, we are not providing the person speaking 100% of our attentive attention.  However what are we suppose to do with the information we’ve been given if not provide a response, and do we not have to structure this response in our heads to have a coherent replay even if its ugh?

While it is a fine line to walk, there without question is the formation of a linguistic Jiujitsu where we are manipulating our conversance words rather than confronting them with their own logic back. As “Jujutsu” evolved from the samurai of feudal Japan as a method for defeating an armed and armored opponent in which one uses no weapon. As striking against an armored opponent proved ineffective, practitioners learned that the most efficient methods for dealing with an opponent took the form of pins, joint locks, and throws. These techniques were developed around the principle of using another’s energy, rather than directly opposing it.

While all this may sound harsh in a way, the focus needs to be the “soft” art of the jujutsu systems which employs the principles of balance, leverage, and momentum to add to the opponent’s actions (words). This is in contrast to “hard” systems styles such as karate and taekwondo that tend to emphasize developing power, strength, and speed to overcome rather than join with. So what is your reward for waiting…

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About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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