Two Ears and One Mouth

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, Talking is like playing on the harp; there is as much in laying the hand on the strings to stop their vibration as in twanging them to bring out their music.

My translation: it’s just as important to stop talking as it is to talk. I already know what I think and there’s little new going to come to me by talking about it. Different perspectives from others will often benefit me but is only possible by being a good listener.

I say all that to say, I am not a particularly good listener. I’m working on that though. Awareness helps and by keeping it forefront mentally growth is noticeable, but doesn’t come rapidly. Ingrained habits change slowly.

A question each person silently asks when meeting someone else is “Do you care about me”.  There are few things that show I care like paying attention to what someone else has to say. At that moment I am making that person one of the most important elements of my life and giving a meaningful gift that rarely goes appreciated.

An old axiom says if you spend a half hour with someone you’ve just met and let them talk for 25 minutes of the time, their impression will be you are an amusing and interesting person to talk to; someone they hope to see again soon.

To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. You listen not only to the ‘music,’ but to the essence of the person speaking. You listen not only for what someone knows, but for what he or she is. Ears operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes take in. Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow your mind’s hearing to your ears’ natural speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning. (Peter Senge)

A personal big step forward came when I began to stop myself from thinking about I am going to say next while another was talking. When my attention is inside my own head focused on my own thoughts while another talks I always miss a fair amount of what was being said.  I am grateful for the reminder that listening is one of the most valuable gifts I can grant to another.

We have two ears and one mouth
so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.