When I close peer conferences with a Group Spective, there’s always a moment that is hard for me. It occurs during the Plus/Delta, when people are sharing what they’d like to change in the event they’ve just experienced. Participants offer many suggestions, perspectives, and ideas that make the organization’s future activities and events better, and their sharing frequently helps me improve my own work.
And then someone, let’s call them John, comes up to the microphone and says something like this:
One of the hardest things for me to do is to shut up and listen.
“If I could give just one piece of advice to all medical students, I would say, ‘Show up completely, and then shut up for at least two minutes while the miracle in front of you tells you who they are and how you can help them.’ If every doctor did just that one thing, it would change medicine.” —Raymond Barfield, Professor of Medicine and Divinity, Duke University, from “The Miracle in Front of You”, January 2016 interview in The Sun
It’s hard for me to shut up and listen because I get sparked by what people say and I want to respond.
It’s hard for me to shut up and listen because people often talk about their problems, and I love solving problems—even when I haven’t been asked to solve them.
It’s hard for me to shut up and listen because I have a need for connection with others and want to share who I am, sometimes more than is best for our relationship.
Yet, when I am able to shut up and give the gift of listening, the odds that the person speaking feels heard increases.
And, when I am able to shut up and give someone sharing a problem the space to say fully what’s on her mind, it’s more likely she’ll ask me what I think, and then, perhaps, I can help her.
And, when I am able to shut up and connect with someone through listening well, I’ll usually end up connecting with him more deeply.
Finally, of course, when I shut up and listen well, I’m less likely to miss important information that I need or want to hear.
We can all—especially me—benefit from shutting up and listening.