Are You Listening?

April 01, 2021

The Greek philosopher Epicetus said, “Nature hath given men one tongue but two ears,
that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.”


So it’s surprising that while schools encourage various oratory skills through debate teams and public speaking, seldom does one hear about classes on listening.

For those that have misunderstood or felt misunderstood, we appreciate how critically important listening is.
It can be argued that the greatest asset people have is their ability to simply listen.

The problem is, there is nothing simple about listening.

For one thing, the listening audience is vast. People are as unique as snowflakes. How we listen to family is probably very different from how we listen to clients. Part of the challenge stems from the fact that we can process words eight times faster than people can speak. Most people speak approximately 100-130 words per minute, but the average human brain can process about 800 words per minute. What does the mind do during the gap? Part is listening in the present moment, part is daydreaming about the past and the future.

Add to the fact that data is gathered and stored from previous interactions where quick conclusions and perceptions become hard-wired. As a result, every word is being screened through filters which can result in a fantasy simulation of what is really happening. We seem to be engaged in a dialogue of the deaf.

Developing a habit of quieting the mind can quickly ramp up your listening skills.

Awareness of the breath can slow down the mental gremlins. A  Mindfulness meditation can provide a valuable opportunity to see the world with unfettered and unfiltered perception.

Calvin Coolidge famously said, “ No man ever listened himself out of a job.”

Next time someone is speaking to you and your mind starts drifting, become aware of your breath and let the music flow in.