Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Everybody's Talking...How About Listening?

Everybody’s Talking…How About Listening?

People that know me are probably rolling their eyes at the title of this post; because they know that I’m a talker...a former boss once told me that I could talk a dog off a meat truck.  It’s true that I do love talking to people.  However, in recent months and years I’ve learned that sometimes listening can be the OneMoreStep that makes an impact.


Listening.  What a lost art in this country.  Jimmy Buffett covers a song originally released by Fred Neil in the 60’s, “Everybody’s Talkin’”.  The first line of the song is a microcosm of today’s business world, and today’s society, for that matter – “Everybody’s talkin’ at me…can’t hear a word they’re say’n…only echoes of my mind…” 

How often do you walk away from a conversation, meeting, or phone call thinking, “why won’t they just listen to me?”  Or here’s a scary thought – how often do people walk away from you wondering if you listened to a word they were saying? 

As leaders, mentors, teammates, friends, and even family members we have many opportunities to do something extra…to go OneMoreStep to make someone’s day.  Listening to an employee’s problem, a friend’s heartache, or a family member’s predicament are all golden opportunities to make them feel better.  For many of us, we forget that we can actually go OneMoreStep by saying nothing at all…sometimes merely listening is the one more step.  That employee, friend, teammate, or family member will walk away feeling better about their situation or problem because you allowed them to vent.  And…quick secret – they’ll walk away with a great feeling about you as a boss, friend, or loving family member…all because you listened.

A friend of mine from work called me earlier this evening.  She had a lot on her mind and shared with me several things going on in her department.   Before we hung up, she said, “Thanks so much for listening…” She was so sincere and I could tell she really appreciated that quick 10-minute conversation.

I smiled as I hung up the phone, and I texted her that ironically I was writing a post on listening right now.  She sent me a text back saying that she was so miserable in her last hotel because they never listened to her there…to the point where she felt invisible!  If that’s not proof enough that listening can make or break someone’s day, week, month, or total experience I don’t know what is. 

So next time you’re slammed, busy, and so focused on that next meeting or appointment…take that extra five minutes, go OneMoreStep for somebody that needs to talk to you.  Put down your Blackberry or i-Phone, make eye contact, and listen.  Sometimes the OneMoreStep is to stop what you’re doing, and listen.  It just might make someone’s day. 

PopPop & Bee…a couple of great listeners

I’m very lucky in that I grew up with my entire family in the same small town, Grayson, KY.  I had two great grandfathers; PopPop on my mom’s side and Bee on my Dad’s side.  That’s what we called them.  (don’t ask…long story…it’s just what we called them)

These two men were different in many ways, but they both shared one honorable trait. They listened more than they talked.  PopPop was a General Manager at a business in town for a few decades.  Everybody liked him.  I remember growing up I would go to town with him on Saturday mornings, and everybody we would walk by on the street would just light up and smile when they talked to PopPop.  I don’t think I ever heard anyone say one bad thing about him. 

We hosted a retirement party for him when he finally hung it up…I was young at the time, but I just remember a million people coming to that party at our house.  So many people respected him because he made them feel special.  He let others talk while he listened.  Don’t get me wrong; he would strike up a random conversation with a total rank stranger on a park bench at Disney World on vacation or in a random gymnasium at a high school basketball game…but once the conversation started, he would ask most of the questions and he actively listened as his new friend went on and on.  People loved him. 

Bee was a barber in Grayson for 50 years…yep, not a typo…50 years.  To this day, I get my haircut every 9 to 11 days because growing up, I had built in free haircuts and I liked to keep it tight.  I still do.  Bee was also a man of few words, but when he did finally get around to talking, he would make people laugh or smile without fail every time.  Even in our small town people had a choice when it came time for a haircut, but I’d say Bee had the majority of the market share.  He had a small shop, a block off Main Street with old walls, old chairs, old equipment, and an old TV.  However, multiple generations of people didn’t return for the comfort of the chairs over the years.  I’m convinced they kept going back because of how “Barber Bill” made them feel.  They talked.  He listened.  They felt better about life when they left the shop than when they came into the shop.  This was evident on any given Saturday morning…Bill’s Barber Shop was “the” place to be…PACKED with a bunch of men and boys; all talking.  Bee listened.

He would listen to story after story…tale after tale, as old men would go on and on about their farm or their grandchildren or their bad back…Bee would just go about his business combing, clipping, shaving, and listening to everything they had to say. 

Sometimes people would roll into Bill’s Barber Shop just to talk…and not even get a haircut!  People would just walk in, sit down, and start talking; sometimes to other patrons waiting to get their haircut…sometimes to Bee.  No matter to whom they were speaking, Bee always listened.

I’m not sure about you, but I’d rather be remembered as that one friend, boss, or family member that truly listens to people when they need it.  In today’s “get it done yesterday” world, if you are actually the one that stops and listens, you may actually be the exception to the rule.  That’s a golden opportunity to go OneMoreStep; that extra five minutes that everybody else just didn’t have time to take, but you did.  That may solidify that big deal, strengthen that relationship, or rekindle an old flame with that special someone. 

Go OneMoreStep this week…listen.

Have a great day.


  1. I was just telling a friend last week that the times in life where I've been at my lowest were the times I felt like I didn't have anyone who would listen to me. It's a little thing that really makes a big difference...

  2. So true, Taylor! Thanks for the touching tribute and the reminder of how important it is to listen. I am going to try to practice this more. :-)

  3. What a great reflection! One of my biggest frustrations with people lately is how often they interrupt me when I'm trying to talk to them about something important or tell a story or just vent... I can't even finish what I was trying to say because they interrupt and just take over the whole conversation...usually making it all about them... I would love to have someone who would just LISTEN for a change...

  4. Many great memories @ Barber Bill's. My Dad got his first "high and tight" there and I followed suit some 35 years later. I can still sit there in my mind, cool clippers and warm shave cream on the neck.
    Love the "One More Step" concept, hope all is well. -Grant-

  5. One really touchy subject is death of a loved one. In my case I lost many family members, but the one that threw me the most was the death of my 20 year old daughter Amanda. People clam up when the subject is brought up. I guess they don't know what to do what to say--I can speak for many people. You don't have to say a thing just LISTEN. You may never understand how much this seemingly small act means. Please don't change the subject--just listen-it is the most meaningful act you can do for a person. Thanks for 'listening'. Lynne Gill Rose.