Do you ever on occasion find yourself wanting to tell someone to be quiet? Or to be a bit more blunt, do you sometimes just want to yell, “shut up!!” Don’t be too hard on yourself if you do because we live in a noisy world with a lot of people out there competing to be heard, myself included.
In preparing to put our house on the market recently we invited several real estate agents to interview for listing our home for sale. We only invited agents who we knew to be reputable, competent, and with a good track record for selling houses in our neighborhood. In other words, we knew they were good before they ever showed up. Nevertheless one by one each agent dutifully showed up at our doorstep armed with brochures about their real estate companies, biographies about themselves, and comparables of other homes for sale. Then sitting around our dining room table we listened as each one spoke impressively about how good he or she is and why we should hire them over the others. In the end they were all equally qualified, so how were we to decide which one to hire? It was easy. The winner was not the best talker, it was the best listener, the one who shut up and started asking questions about what WE wanted.
The first thing we’re taught in business is to have a good sales pitch, right? What we are not taught so much is that the real secret to winning business is ultimately not about the sales pitch, but how well we listen. Think about it, if we do indeed live in a noisy world where everyone is competing to be heard, does that not mean people are starved for someone to listen to them? So . . . listen to them – and you’ll be the winner.
Why, then, is listening so difficult? The answer is that listening requires humility, putting our own ego aside, and in our highly competitive world that’s a hard thing to do. It’s counter-cultural, certainly counter-competitive. Yet, “blessed are the meek,” Jesus says in the Beatitudes, “for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5). The MEEK will inherit the earth! The humble – the listeners – will be the winners. What would happen, I wonder, if our leaders in Washington spent less time talking (about being right) and more time listening (to us and each other)? And not just them, but all of us? Wouldn’t we all become bigger winners?