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We Talk More and Listen Less Than We Think

I admit, I can get better at talking less and listening more.  One might think I would be close to perfect in this area since I spend most of my days asking JMOs questions about their goals and background to help them evaluate career options and make a transition to business.  While I can get better in this area too, I am really talking about getting better with this as a leader at Cameron-Brooks, as a father and husband, and in my relationships with others.

I started evaluating my talking to listening ratio after I read this insightful and humorous Wall Street Journal Article, “It’s True You Talk Too Much,” by Rob Lazbink.  You can access the article at http://on.wsj.com/1bxOzZ2.  You will likely need to have a subscription to the online WSJ to read it.  If you do not have one, below are the key points I took away and that you can also start applying in your relationships, leadership roles and conversations.

1.  If you are 1 of 2 people in a conversation, you should be talking 50% and listening 50%.  However, most of us talk more than 50% and just don’t realize it.  Sometimes, there will be more than 2 people involved, and you just need to use your basic math fraction (1/the number of people in the conversation) and you should be speaking that amount and listening the rest of the time.  Action:  Get back to your math basics, use your fractions and determine how much you should be speaking and listening, and execute.

2.  How do you listen more and talk less?  Ask questions!  Keep asking questions and listening.  The problem is that most people (and I am guilty of this) listen to what the other person says, and instead of following up with questions to learn more and listen, tell their own story!  Action:  After someone tells you a story, resist the urge to tell your own story, or “one up” the person, and instead be curious and ask good questions.  You will build stronger relationships.

3.  Most of your stories aren’t that interesting, and others can only pay attention to them for about 1 minute.  The article points out that you should not go longer than 1 minute with your stories unless you have received very strong feedback from others on it.  Action:  When you do tell stories, keep them short.  Be conservative, and only go longer when you have feedback from others from previous conversations that you have an amazing story to share.

The article really delivers a simple message:  You talk more than you listen, and most of us underestimate how much we talk.  Ask more questions.  Keep your stories short.  When I write “you,” believe I mean “me” too; just ask my wife and children.

Joel Junker