We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. The Greek philosopher Epictetus (AD 55-c.135) understood that effective communication relies on both listening and speaking.
I recently learned another phrase that gets to the heart of effective communication … Are You Interesting or Interested? This phrase also promotes listening as the foundation for two people to really understand each other. To listen effectively, one must be interested in the person who is speaking and what they are saying. Since Personal Responsibility is at the heart of my own beliefs and teachings, let’s examine how we individually can take 100% responsibility for our listening. Are you willing to be more Interested than Interesting the next time you have a conversation?
I discovered that my own communication style had become out of balance when I recognized that I was communicating one-on-one in much the same manner as when I was performing. When one performs, it?s appropriate to do most of the talking, to lead the conversation, tell jokes, entertain, and maintain control. In performing, questions are designed and asked to get an answer to set up the next joke or comment. My goal in performing is to be entertaining or Interesting! Being Interesting in performing is both appropriate and necessary.
The problem was, this routine had crept into my everyday communication style. I want to be entertaining and Interesting to the people I speak with daily in a one-on-one basis. Too much emphasis was being placed on leading the conversation. The proverbial 2×4 whacked me in the head when a person interrupted, “I feel like I’m on a job interview.” They obviously felt uncomfortable with the number of questions being asked. Additionally, I noticed myself often thinking about what to say next as opposed to actually listening to what the other person was saying. I like to be funny or witty or Interesting … but what I’m not being is Interested in them.
While asking questions on the surface gives the appearance of being Interested, asking the questions in order to control the conversation or impress the other with knowledge is really a form of trying to be Interesting or controlling or possibly insecure … Ouch!
Constantly thinking of the next question or comment versus actually listening to the other person is not being Interested, and it’s not very Interesting for the other person. If you ever watch the cable news channels notice how the interviewer rarely listens to the answer of a guest … they mostly just bombard them with another question or talking point.
The good news for you is that it’s not hard to shift your communicating/ listening mindset from Interesting to Interested. All you need to do is give up the idea that the other person cares what you have to say … they may not! And if you demonstrate that you care about what they have to say by being Interested in them, they will probably find you a lot more Interesting.
Are you willing to give up being Interesting and be Interested? To be more Interested, you’ll have to give up your talking points and need for control … you’ll have to listen. The end result of actually listening may just be that others will see you as more Interesting.
Or, as Epictetus stated, listen twice to what you speak.
Next Blog Title: And That’s All I Have to Say About That!
Next Blog Date: Monday, January 18, 2010