Zen and the Art of Listening Part 2: Most People Are Not Listening Even Though They Think They Are Listening

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Yesterday, I talked about how successful people in the new era could listen to people since listening was the key to understanding what others wanted and we needed to be able to cooperate with others to succeed.


Today, I would like to talk about how to listen. As I have been a language teacher, coach, and a counselor, listening has been part of my job. I would like to share some tips I have developed over the years.


The first step is to measure how much you are talking and how much you are listening in your conversations. Are you speaking 80% of the time, or 50% of the time, or 30% of the time?


Probably, you have never paid attention to it, but as a language teacher, we are trained to speak 50% of the time to let the student speak. 50% is the maximum; it is better if you speak less because the less you speak, the more you can give space for the student to speak, especially if it is a group lesson.


Since you are not a language teacher, the person you are speaking to doesn’t need to practice speaking; I think 50% is enough. It is a good amount to share the conversation space with your partner. However, if you are speaking most of the time, I bet you are not listening to your conversation partner so much, and you don’t understand what your partner wants.


It is your loss because by not knowing about your partner, you cannot come up with win-win situations, which will make it harder to gain your partner’s support.


If you understand about your partner, on the other hand, you can talk about your idea in the context that your partner can relate to.


If you are a talker, train yourself to speak less, and try to listen to what others have to say.


You’ll be liked by others, too.


When I was in Vancouver many years ago, I had a friend called Hitoshi. He loved parties, and he often had parties in his house, which by the way was fabulous; with a beautiful garden overlooking the sea. He wanted to make sure that all his guests enjoyed the parties, so he always called some of them after the party. Some of them told him that they enjoyed the party very much, but some of them didn’t. The next time he observed the people during the party and called them after the party. What was interesting was that people who said they had enjoyed the party spent a lot of time talking, but the people who said they hadn’t enjoyed the party ended up listening to those people speak.


It seems that everybody wants to talk-haha.


So, by shutting your mouth up, you can listen more?


Yes, I think you will have higher chances of listening but not exactly.


In order to listen to others, we need to pay attention to them, and shutting your mouth up doesn’t automatically mean you are paying attention to others if you are thinking of something else.


How many of you have experienced this? When your friend started talking about her vacation to Hawaii, it immediately reminded you of your vacation to Hawaii. As she goes on about how beautiful beaches were and how delicious dinners were, your mind is in Hawaii but not Hawaii she is experiencing, Hawaii you experienced some time ago.

Next second, you hear yourself opening your mouth, saying, “Hawaii is great, isn’t it? I went to Hawaii, last year and it was fantastic.” Then you continued talking about how it was and what you did for the next 20 minutes.


In the beginning, you were listening to your friend. You heard which beaches she went to and which restaurants she went to, but your mind was busy with your memory you didn’t absorb how she felt.


Actually, she might not have really expressed how she felt, because you interjected. There could have been a continuation in her story like she met a guy there, but she missed her chance of talking about it.


Well, if it was a girl and a girl talk, she would probably grab a timing to share her story no matter what, but if it was guys talk, your friend might miss his chance to share his story.


Paying attention means you shut your thoughts, too. You listen to what your friend is saying, absorbing the feeling she had, and feel it with her.


It needs practicing.


By the way, how much do you ask questions?


It is related to your listening. I will talk about it tomorrow.


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