I heard a helpful saying the other day: We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak. If only that was true! Most of us speak far too much and listen far too little — to our own detriments. In an effort to improve our interpersonal communication with colleagues, clients and definitely in our personal lives, I’d like to present us with the following exercise or challenge:
Talk less. In every conversation, speak only 30 percent of the time. Speak just three sentences for every seven spoken by the other person.
Do this for a month, a week, a day, an hour…it’s not easy, but the results you’ll begin to notice in your professional and personal relationships are miraculous. When I train groups and individuals to discard the communication blockers that keep them from connecting with others, they often ask me what they need to do to replace their bad habits (multitasking, interrupting, analyzing, fixing, etc.). While there are most certainly a number of communication, social and emotional intelligence skills worth practicing and mastering, a safe short cut to being a 100% communicator involves listening.
When you commit to talk for just 30% of the time in a conversation, you’re also pledging to listen to the other person for 70% of your time together. You’ll begin to not just listen their words, but to the feelings and needs behind those words. You’ll be giving yourself the space to pay attention to their verbal as well as nonverbal expressions. You’ll discover new details that will lead to better outcomes. And best of all, your partner in the dialogue will feel heard, valued and appreciated…and walk away from the conversation wanting to give you their business, their support and their trust.