Listening, Wisdom and Success

I send members of my career mentoring site a motivational quote every day.  Last Saturday, the quote was from Doug Larson, a US journalist.  Check it out…

 “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening  when you’d have preferred to talk.”

Besides being great advice on how to acquire wisdom, Doug’s words are some great life and career success advice.

Two types of activities occur simultaneously in a conversation: speaking and listening.  In good conversations, both of these are continuous and productive.  In plain English, when you’re in a conversation, if you’re not speaking and providing information, you need to be listening and receiving it.

In other posts I’ve pointed out that asking good questions is an important way to become known as a great conversationalist.  But to take full advantage of the questions you ask, you need to really listen to the answers and respond appropriately.

Here are my top seven tips for becoming a good listener – and conversationalist.

  1. Look the other person in the eye when he or she is speaking. This demonstrates that you are engaged with him or her.
  2. Listen to understand what the other person is saying – not to plan your rebuttal.
  3. Listen really hard when the other person begins by saying something with which you don’t agree.
  4. Know the words that trigger your emotions. Don’t get distracted by them.
  5. Be patient. Some people take longer than others to make their point.  Don’t interrupt.
  6. Ask clarification questions when you don’t understand.
  7. Repeat what you have heard the other person say – to make sure you got it right, and to show him or her that you were listening.

I always urge members of my career mentoring site to do three things when they are in conversation: 1) Ask lots of questions; 2) Really listen to what the other person is saying; 3) Respond appropriately; Laugh if the person says something funny.  Commiserate if the person reveals something that is sad.  Make sure the other person knows you are tuned in and paying attention.

Most people like to talk about themselves.  That’s why listening is so important.  You can gain a reputation as a great conversationalist – even if you don’t say much.  Listening is that important.  That’s why the 2/3 – 1/3 rule is such great career advice.

Of course, adding your thoughts to the conversation doesn’t hurt – as long as you keep them focused on what the other person is saying.  If you absolutely need to change the subject, let him or her know.  Say something like, “I understand and appreciate what you’re saying.  If we’re done with that topic, I need to speak with you about something else.  OK?”  In that way, you’re demonstrating your respect for the other person.

In her great book, CEO Material, my friend Debra Benton has a lot to say about listening and conversation.

“The best way to influence others is with your ears.  If you listen in a way that causes people to feel heard, you’ll hear things right the first time, maintain the self-esteem of others, build better relationships, see nuances.

“Shut out other people and distractions, and stop thinking about what anyone else is thinking or your response.  Take off your headphones, stop texting, turn off your cell phone, put away your Blackberry.  Don’t doodle; fidget with your hands, arms or fingers; squirm; body rock; or get up and move around (like you have ADD).  Instead, lean forward, tilt your head a little, give some eye contact, and maybe throw in a brow furrow, don’t glance around or act bored, disbelieving, or disagreeing.  Just listen to the person who is talking, remember what he or she says, and say some of it back to that person later.

“Don’t quit listening if you don’t like what you’re hearing.  Pay attention to complete information.  Try to make sense of the data, even if you don’t agree.  Not every misguided opinion needs to be corrected by you.  Pick your battles, as they say.  You’ll create calm for both of you — and the other person will more likely listen to you also.”

That is not only great advice on listening.  It’s great career advice as well.  To sum up.  Listen more than you speak.  You’ll become known as a great conversationalist. And that’s an important key to creating the life and career success you deserve.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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