My Ears Never Said Anything Stupid

Not too long ago I picked up a strange habit. It’s a good, strange habit; fun, educational and easy to share. Quite simply, I have grown fond of used bookstores. Not just book-stores, used book-stores. Have you any idea how many walks of life hang out in used book-stores? These shops supply our hometowns with two fundamental human requirements; myriad, inexpensive avenues to information and recreation, while fueling an unquenchable addiction to one of the world’s most favorite pastimes, reading. They are fun places to browse, go people watching and in general require only a fraction of the investment you are obliged to make with Barnes and Noble. Be that as it may, I am now a junkie!

I have shelves filled with used books as well as a commandment concerning my used book museum; Thou shalt not purchase a new used book before thoroughly using previously purchased ones. I think libraries should be more functional than decorative but a little mahogany wouldn’t hurt mine one bit. 

I am compelled to tell you about my most recent purchase. This latest bargain is a short, easy little fellow, as were most of the books I read last year. The majority have dealt with business, success, selling, relationships, or clients both internal and external. All of these writers tend to discuss one particular topic with great vigor. It is a trait worthy of everyone’s time and focus but ill-used at best. It is simply the art of LISTENING. Too often our listening reminds me of a Simon and Garfunkle song called, The Boxer. Baby boomers awaken, you remember the words, “Well a man will hear what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”. Prophetic as well as poetic, but when I think of past relationships, the tune has an all too familiar ring. 

Consultant, Peter Drucker, insists his greatest ally during a consultation is ignorance. It forces him to listen, ask questions and learn. Only then can he become the teacher.

If your sales trainer is like ours, I’m preaching to the choir and that’s good. The value of true listening is priceless and takes diligent effort. It interprets itself into happiness, understanding, respect, improved relationships and yes, cash, and lots of it when mastered. And… if you think it ends at work, you have never been married, had a significant other, known children, had friends or left the confines of your bedroom for a period longer than it takes to brush your teeth or brew a pot of tea.

The following are actual quotes in story form and some paraphrasing, from the book, THE SERVANT, a Simple Story About Leadership, By J.D. Hunter. Ron Rubin introduced me to the principle of leadership through servitude, last year. It has turned out to be interesting and promises to require a lifetime of effort. Think of our world’s greatest leaders, Gandhi, Kennedy, King, and Jesus Christ only to mention a few. What leadership traits did they possess? Did they hear what their people were saying? To listen is to serve and to serve is an honorable thing. 

…“If we didn’t know it was our turn to speak next, nobody would listen!” Will Rogers once said.

…Most people can think four times faster than people can speak. This makes for a great deal of noise in our heads while the conversation is going on.

…Many people think listening is a passive event while the other person speaks. We tend to listen selectively making judgments about what is being said, and thinking of ways to end the conversation or redirect it in ways more pleasing to ourselves.

…Active listening requires a disciplined effort to silence all that internal conversation while attempting to listen to the other person.

It requires a sacrifice, an extension of ourselves, to block out noise and truly enter another person’s world, even if only for a few moments.

…Active listening sees the world as the speaker sees and feels things. This is then transformed into empathy and requires great effort. Think, however, of the return on your investment at no material cost to you.

You become what the book refers to as, fully present.

…Listening can be our greatest opportunity to show respect and convey how much we respect someone.

…Early in his career, a teacher once thought it was his job to solve each teacher’s or student’s problem. After years of experience he found that simply listening and sharing problems with others brought great ease and peace to the other person’s burden. “There is a cathartic effect in being listened to and being allowed to express feelings with another person.

…A quote from an Egyptian pharaoh reads, ‘Those who listen to the pleas and cries of their people should do so patiently. Because the people want attention to what they say even more than the accomplishing for which they came.’

…Paying attention to people is a legitimate human need and one we must not neglect as leaders.

The book then goes into the need for leaders to possess the following qualities: respectfulness, humility, selflessness, forgiveness, honesty, patience, kindness, and commitment. Who couldn’t work on that list?

So, I will continue to read and if you care to join me, I’ll help you get your hands on the book. I’ll even send you my copy if you will return it! Or maybe we can swap books! 

I’ll dedicate these final gems to my trainer and mentor, Maryanne: “Your ears never said anything stupid or embarrassing. You can’t say the wrong thing while the other person is talking. You can’t hit the ball out of bounds or lose a serve, if the ball is in the other person’s court.” 

Thanks Maryanne, I know you heard that!!

Copyright 2005 by Peter Deahl. All rights reserved.

Back to Articles
The Pruning School 16 Berkeley Court Sterling, Virginia 20165