Ripples #1207: W.A.I.T. to Listen

Ripples #1207: W.A.I.T. to Listen
July 11, 2022


Listen, or your tongue will keep you deaf.
-Cree Nation Proverb, shared by Daniel in Milwaukee (who heard this wisdom during a meditation class offered by Rooted in Mindfulness)


We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.
-Carl Rogers, shared by Holly in Phoenix, AZ


In sharing today’s Pebble, Daniel explained to me that this Native American wisdom had allowed him to grow more discerning when deciding how much to share his own opinion, and has encouraged him to listen to others a little more mindfully. He also shared an acronym that was new to me: WAIT: Why Am I Talking? I find this to be a tantalizingly provocative question, reminding us of the hidden power in talking less and listening more.

Daniel connected me to Lauri Flick-Harty, one of the facilitators of the Mindful Communication Community Group where he initially encountered both phrases. In an email exchange, Lauri shared that she finds both tools useful in helping people listen wholly “without agenda or waiting for a ‘gotcha’ moment” and also being clear with intention. She reminded me of the value in asking yourself: Am I trying to change or fix this person? Am I trying to defeat them so I can “win” an argument or point? Or am I simply trying to connect and possibly support this person? Sometimes multiple intentions can compete and undermine our capacity to really listen deeply.

People often assume my job as a leadership trainer and keynote speaker is mostly about hopping in front of an audience and talking. That is what groups pay me to do, and I’m the first to admit: I do like to talk!

It is also true that I end up spending way (way) more time listening than I do talking. This includes listening to event planners as they describe the purpose and goals of the event, listening to organizational leaders as they share the mission, values, and vision of the group, and also listening to myself as ideas and speech fragments bubble up in the days and weeks prior to an event. When I arrive at the venue there is still time to listen some more, as attendees share what is going on in their work and lives and what they hope to get out of our time together. When my talk is over, there’s even more listening to do: gathering feedback from participants which can help me evaluate the impact of the presentation while also influencing how I’ll deliver future talks.

I know this is true for me, and I bet it is true for you, too: our best chance to enhance the value of our TALKING is to improve the effectiveness of our LISTENING.

p.s. Additional sleuthing about these helpful listening terms led me to a couple of useful posts that each mentioned some other phrases I’ll find useful as I continue refining my listening skills. Clicking on the links will lead you to the articles where I found them:
Let the silence do the heavy lifting.
Are you mastering the pause?
Let me know if you find these useful, as it will encourage me to share more links in future Rippling.

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