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March 17, 1992

Don’t Talk, Listen

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He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame. PROVERBS 18:13
None of us likes to be interrupted, nor do we appreciate being given advice before we’ve had a chance to explain the whole problem. And yet so many times, that is exactly what happens.
We begin telling a coworker about a sticky client issue only to have him immediately launch into an elaborate dissertation about how to fix it. Or we start telling a friend about the horrible date we had only to have her interrupt us with her own woeful weekend tale. Such responses are frustrating, annoying, and downright rude.
But we’re all guilty in this area. We’re so anxious to impart our knowledge and share our experiences that we fail to listen carefully to what’s being said. In doing so, we often ignore key points. We overlook subtle inferences. We miss hidden meanings.
And on top of all that, we show disrespect. Nothing screams, “I don’t care about you or about what you’re saying” louder than a rude interruption. By acting as if we have all the answers, or, worse, by behaving as if we don’t have time to listen to the whole story, we are basically blowing someone off. Such a response, Proverbs says, is shameful.
How do you respond in conversations with your coworkers and employees? Do you wait until they’re finished speaking before you open your mouth? Do you listen carefully, making eye contact to show you’re really interested? Or do you interrupt frequently, tap your fingers, focus on other activity in the office, or mess with your Palm Pilot when someone is trying to explain something to you?
Think about how you like to be treated. Then treat your coworkers the same way.

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