I've mentioned in a previous blog about an inspirational poster that I have in my bedroom. It's called the Seven Steps to Happiness, and one of the steps is "Talk Less, Listen More."
I'd like to think of myself as a good listener and, in many situations, I prefer to listen rather than talk. But I've never really stopped to think why listening is so important.
I suppose one advantage is that it gives you time to process what you're hearing, and formulate considered responses. It also stops you jumping to conclusions.
In a previous job, I had to confront a colleague about something I'd been told about her. But rather than going in, all guns blazing, I simply asked her for her side of the story and listened. It turned out the situation was much more complicated than I'd been led to believe. I was therefore so relieved I'd taken the time to hear her side of the story first. If I had accused her outright, I would have made the situation 10 times worse.
Another benefit is you get to learn more about other people. Whenever I meet anyone, I always make a point of asking lots of questions and listening to what he or she has to say. I'm quite nosy and love finding out what makes people tick. As most people love talking about themselves, it's a win-win situation!
But, of course, speaking is important too – if you can't communicate what you're trying to say effectively, or ask the right questions, the likelihood is you won't get very far in your career. But I think if we all spent a bit more time listening and less time talking, we'd learn more about one another, and there'd be a lot fewer misunderstandings.
We recently asked which skill you think is most important at work: speaking or listening – and we received some fantastic comments on social media, so thanks to everyone who contributed!
Most of you, like @Jorge5008 on Twitter, are in favor of listening over speaking. Like my happiness poster, @VijayJetty said we should all "speak less and listen more." Retu Hazari on Facebook rightly commented that "listening improves knowledge," and Cosme Fu Lanito posted: "Listening is more important for those who have nothing worth saying."
Several people pointed out that we have "two ears and one mouth" and that this is a good reason why we should spend more time listening (@Blessings2050, @PrivateBNJ, @ThinkPipeNat). Jason Fisher added: "I like to use this ratio [2:1] when listening and speaking." And Vaibhav Gupta posted: "Listening is more effective compared with speaking because in the corporate world, everyone is given a chance to share his or her thoughts. This can only be valuable if people are given an empathetic ear!"
A number of you said what's important is the order you do them, with many – like Yean-nee Shortland – favoring the "listen first, talk second" approach. Jerry Richardson also observed that "if you don't listen, you will not know what to say," which is true. Although Punyashree Venkatram agreed that speaking should come after listening, the poster also said: "Our opinion matters. Listening after speaking is also important. Other people's opinions also matter."
But while we had a lot of support for listening, David Billa spoke out for speaking, and others stressed the importance of practicing both. @DandersK said: "Both are equal. To fully understand, you have to listen properly to a clear orator." And @ThiruHR made the excellent point that "in listening we learn, and in speaking we transform."
Thanks for all your comments - we really appreciate your feedback. And if anyone else would like to share their thoughts, please do so below!
For a long-lasting, fulfilling experience at work, it pays to think carefully before applying for a job.
"The best leaders, the ones who make the most change, know that communications is not a soft skill but a rock-hard competency." -Sally Susman
"He’d also just talk over people, including me. And my reaction was not me at my best. I just sat there in a passive-aggressive huff. " - Simon Bell