I once went to a leadership class in Washington D.C. taught by Dr. Gerald Bell. He even printed on the graduation diplomas, “To listen or not to listen”. Hmmm sounds like that might be the question. I speak Spanish as a second language. I have to reallllly listen when I am speaking Spanish. I mean 100% concentration must be on the speaker and their every word. I am not completely fluent, I would guess I am around 60-70%. I am 100% fluent in English, though. So I think I can listen to the TV, pay attention to my kids behind me and talk to you while cooking over my grill. But I can’t. That is the thing Dr. Bell said. “To listen or not to listen”. We cannot do both. We must choose.
We have two ears and one mouth because we are supposed to listen twice as much as we talk. I say that to my children’s athletic teams all the time. Is it true? Are we supposed to listen twice as much? More? What about your eyes? You can see twice as much then too, right? If we aren’t using our eyes, are we not listening as much? Or better yet, how can we listen with our eyes? Can we take those nonverbal cues in and use them in conjunction with our ears? Will that make our listening better? More effective? Probably.
I think reading a room is a talent. I think knowing when verbal doesn’t match up with nonverbal is a must in customer service. I also know that tone and inflection is why email is a terrible form of communication. It is terribly easy to send a quick email to follow-up with a customer and the worst way to actually judge your customer’s experience. Think about your experience in a restaurant. Often, my wife will say to a returning wait staffer that her meal is just “fine,” even when it is not fine. I usually can tell when my wife’s meal is not fine, but I love to watch and see if the wait staff is really “listening” to what is going on. I know they are not mind readers and they have a lot going on, but I just want to see if they are picking up on her dissatisfaction. People who really care, care enough to listen. And sometimes we can listen with our eyes. So since we have two ears, and two eyes, and only one mouth….Shouldn’t we be “listening” at least 4x as much as we talk?