The opposite of talking…

…is not “waiting to talk.”

When did we all stop being able to listen? When did what we have to say become so urgent that we have to blurt it out right this minute, even if someone else is talking?

This is my number one pet peeve and I would offer, one of the biggest single contributors to what makes work hard and at times, frustrating. If nobody’s listening, then so much time is wasted because we miss potentially acting on good ideas that go unheard.

Yes, I concede that there are people who talk much longer than they should. But, most people know how to say what they have to say and give the next person their turn. Skilled moderators or conversation partners know how to gracefully interrupt those long-winded folks. Did we lose the skill of how to listen politely?

There are classes and seminars about listening. Listening well is not easy; you have to quiet your own inner voice to really listen to someone else. It takes focus and you have to put energy into it—just think about how hard it is to listen to anyone when you’re tired.

But, do we really need to attend a class before we can get better at this? Or can we just think back to what we learned in kindergarten?

  • Everyone gets a turn
  • We all have to share

And another of my pet peeves:

  • Please use your indoor voice

Here’s what I suggest: the next time you’re in a meeting and feeling frustrated, pay attention to what’s happening. I would bet that there is a lot of talking and very little listening. I have learned to stop it in a way that makes my point and is funny at the same time. I ask, “Can someone tell me what is the opposite of talking?” This usually causes a confused look on most people’s faces—is this a trick question? Finally, a brave soul suggests, “listening.” “Wow,” I reply, “Watching us today I thought the opposite of talking was waiting to talk.” This usually gets a laugh and for the rest of the meeting, people try to do better at listening.

It may not be sustainable, but it’s a good start.

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