When I was young, I never knew how to be quiet. I wasn’t overly loud, but I talked all the time. When I had no one else with whom to talk, I talked to myself. Even when I wasn’t talking, I was making some kind of noise, some sound effect, some imitation. It especially drove my sister crazy.
I had so much energy and excitement. I had so much to share. It was roiling and bubbling inside me, and it had to find a way out. It always did, just not always in the best way.
My fourth-grade teacher even threw a book at my head one day because…well, talking. I didn’t answer a question in exactly the right way (probably more than once), and when I was corrected, I began to talk to myself quietly. Evidently, for some adults that can be distracting or even misinterpreted as “mouthing off.” Thus, book…head.
By the time I became a young man, I still hadn’t learned. I often got so focused on what I had to say that I never stopped to find out what other people had to say. When people became frustrated with my, I learned about insecurity. I was insecure in who I was, and I felt I had to prove myself to the world through all that I knew and had to share. I hadn’t learned a bit of wisdom.
He who has knowledge spares his words,
And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.
Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace;
When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive. Proverbs 17:27-28
My wonderful wife helped me truly come to understand the wisdom found in silence. She recognized that my effervescent conversations were driving people away. So she began to help me learn. She gave me confidence by encouraging me to share sparingly and let the power of listening and silence rule many of my conversations.
When we were in social situations where my mouth began to run away with me, she began to gently squeeze my knee, my arm, or my hand to help me recognize my overflowing mouth. It worked! I learned to close my mouth, open my ears, and focus on what others had to share.
Through these experiences over the years, I have learned three principals for building understanding, wisdom, perception, and influence.
Be in the moment. Focus on the person who is speaking. Look at them. Listen to their words. Engage with affirmative responses to let them know you are hearing what they are saying. Watch their facial expressions and body language. Find out what they have to say; capture the complete thought. Focus on the idea, don’t judge the delivery. Plan your response after they are finished speaking.
Listening is a journey of discovery together. Ask questions to increase clarity and understanding. Draw the speaker out with open-ended questions. Judge nothing, discern everything. Pay attention to how things are said to get a fuller picture of the message.
Acknowledge what the speaker has said, even if you disagree. Use positive language. Affirm the person regardless of the message. Disagree respectfully; present differences graciously. Encouragement is the most powerful part of creating influence through listening!
When we focus on the individual, regardless of opinion or message, we create relationships and build opportunities to grow in understanding and wisdom for the future.
That is influence.
Do you want to impact your family, church, community, business? Do you want to change a generation to impact this earth for God’s kingdom?