Hi, I’m sometimes a conversation bully. Sometimes I just need to be quiet and listen.
That’s a hard statement to say out loud, but it’s the result of a healthy dose of humility. My listening journey began with a good friend telling me that I just needed to shut up and listen. To protect the innocent, let’s call him Steve. We were in a conversation and I thought we were having a good back and forth, however, Steve did not.
“Do you ever just shut up and listen?”
We were discussing some upcoming business opportunities. I understood the field, knew the options, and had lots of input. As Steve would be explaining, I would interject with what I thought were great insights or solutions. From my perspective, this was brainstorming gold. From Steve’s, I was rude and arrogant. I was not showing respect. I didn’t give him the full floor to talk through all the elements of his thoughts and ideas. My interjections were blocking the conversation flow and communicating that my ideas were better and that his were unneeded. It reached a breaking point when he looked at me and asked, “Do you ever just shut up and listen?”
I wish I could say I took his rebuke and instantly changed, but that would be a lie. Instead, I sat quietly and listened and made a list about all the reasons I was right and all the great ways I could help. After we were done, we left as friends and continued on. However, Steve’s words rung in my ears ever conversation I had following that day. I began to realize how often I interjected. It wasn’t out of rudeness or selfishness. It was really from a place of wanting to help. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So I decided to change.
I stopped talking and just listened. Listening to co-workers as we talked through issues in the office. Listening to my wife as we discussed our home. Listened to my children as they told me of school and church. Listened to people as they would share their story. When I started listening, something happened. New ideas started to appear on the table. It was no longer just me collecting ideas and setting a strategy. Instead, it was truly a unity of effort. Client needs were better met because their voice was louder than mine. Employees were empowered to run with ideas and bring about some amazing creativity. Most importantly, my family drew closer because they were participants, not just contributors.
Being quiet reminds us to listen fully to input from those around us. Give it a shot. Just shut up.