One of my good girlfriends told me something a while back, that her mother would always tell her. And when I heard it, I gained a whole new respect for that woman’s parenting skills and also that I should probably apply this lesson to myself. What she said was this:
“Baby, sometimes you have to learn when to shut the fuck up.”
Now there are probably a few of you that might be horrified that a mother would say this to their daughter. I can admit that this presentation of life’s lessons is unique, but I also know that being raised in a black family, tough love is something that I’m used to. Black parents don’t always have the luxury of sugar coating the dos and don’t’s of life and in turn their children learn that life is not fair, nor is it easy, and if you want to be successful, you have to work twice as hard and if you are a black woman, you better bust your ass 3x harder than your caucasian counterparts, but I digress.
This particular message that my friend’s mother preached resonated with me in a way where I needed to look at my interactions with people, not only professionally, but also personally.
So what did I do?
Simple, I learned to stop talking, stop waiting to respond, and start listening, really listening. When having conversations in person I practiced by looking at my counterpart’s mouth and concentrating on their words. I watched their body language and when I thought that they had completed their sentence, I counted to 1-2-3 in my head and quickly gathered my thoughts before responding.
When on the phone, I muted myself while the other person was speaking so we didn’t have that awkward speaking over one another exchange. Before unmuting myself I always counted 1-2-3 before speaking to ensure they had enough space to get their thoughts out. This is also a very useful strategy for selling, where you want the client to do 90% of the talking to assess their needs and cater your response accordingly.
I no longer mute myself when talking on the phone, but I’ve noticed that sometimesI’m so silent while listening, that my friends will often ask if I’m still there, I just tell them I’m listening to you and they continue on talking.
What I’ve learned about people through this exercise, other than the fact that I have become a better listener, and conversationalist for that matter, I also feel like I have become a better friend and a more reliable source for people to come to when they want to talk, vent, or brainstorm.
What are some other listening techniques that you have found helpful to make you a better listener? Or if you have tried these techniques, have you noticed a change in your ability to communicate? I’d love to know, leave a comment and let’s discuss!