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Shut up!

December 5, 2012

“Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” St James

I am convinced there’s a whole universe worth of strategy in that statement. I don’t care who you are, what your role in life is, or what positions or titles you hold. That advice above applies to you. And, if followed it will do you a world of good. It will bring you healthy relationships. It can also bring you treasure in the spiritual and monetary sense of that word.

If you are a mom trying to get through to your daughter this applies.

If you are a CEO hoping your partners will finally “get it” this applies.

If you are a new manager and can’t figure out why your direct reports won’t respect you, this applies.

If you are a salesperson and you find you are no longer closing sales the way you used to, this applies.

If you are husband and you feel like you’re losing touch with your wife, this applies.

For whatever reasons (and they are legion!) we are convinced that talking at problems will fix them and giving people more information will influence them.


People want to be heard. Really heard. Really understood. It’s also true that to fix a problem you have to learn and learning requires listening as the price of admission.

An example from my business life. I can not tell you how many times I have had a sales person come into my office and convince me of the need to buy. I was hooked. I just had a few questions for them and I was ready to open up my check book sometimes to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. But they could not pick up on the ques that it was my turn to talk or that I had a question. They wanted to finish their speech, pull every sales trick out of their grab bag and make sure I had ‘all the information I needed to make an informed decision.’ Well guess what?! I had already made a decision to buy and the more they talked the less interested I became. Because in that moment it was all about them. If they were offering me something of value it should have been about me, right? I mean I had mentally already stroked the check. I was right where they wanted me. But… they kept talking. And talking, And talking. So they lose.

Why? Because I assume they represent the culture of the company they are selling for. And if the culture is talk talk talk talk talk, then what happens when I have a problem with their product or service? Am I to assume that their customer service department will be totally attentive and ready to help? I immediately start to have doubts. And the more they talk the more my doubts grow…

Listening well takes work and practice and learning. But it can be learned and to be really effective in any endeavor I believe it must be learned. I fully agree with John Jantsch, “…one of the master skills of any marketer, manager or educator is the ability to listen perceptively to what our prospects, customers, staff and community members are saying. And I further believe this is something we all have to work at.” (The Commitment Engine, p 152)

Here’s an amazing Ted talk that got passed to me this week by my good friend Chris Marshall who heard about it from our mutual friend Bill Bean.
It’s all about the leverage and importance of listening if we really want to do well and do good….

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