Listen More

“The older I grow, the more I listen to people who don’t talk much.” ~ Germain G. Glidden … 

This sentiment captures a beautiful truth that many of us are discovering and learning as we grow older: silence often times speaks louder than words. Some of us feel that those who are quiet really do not have anything worthwhile to say. And although this may be true, as there are other sayings such as “Don’t speak unless you can improve silence,” it has been my experience that those of us who talk a great deal tend to have the least to say, while those who talk less only speak when necessary, and also know the value of silence because they are truly listening to others who are speaking.

I once heard this explained as the difference between sap and syrup. A person who talks a lot is like sap–there is plenty of it available from a tree, but in and of itself it has no flavor and little value. And if we wish to produce something of value from that sap, we must process and distill into something else, something much more valuable and useful like syrup. This requires upwards of 40 times the amount of sap to produce approximately 1 gallon of syrup. And people who talk little are kind of like the refining process–they have listened to those who talk much and have taken just the good stuff to give us some very valuable syrup.

It often follows that those who speak less, are those who speak only when it seems important to do so. They do not speak just to hear themselves speak, or to fill in the silence, or to partake in conversation, rather, they do so to relate something important to others. And because they speak less than others, they are able to spend time listening and thinking about what they hear rather than just trying to come up with something else to say.

Certainly, I have listened to some wonderful individuals who have spoken a lot and had many wonderful things to say. And yet, my experience has taught me that more often than not, it is from the words of those who seldom speak that I will discover the greatest treasure.

Make it your priority to listen to what others have to say today, and answer only when necessary.

Questions to consider:

How often do you spend time listening closely to people who talk little?

Why do so many people who talk little have such great things to say?

Why do so many people who talk a lot have so few good things to say?

For further thought:

“There is a silence that matches our best possibilities when we have learned to listen to others. We can master the art of being quiet in order to be able to hear clearly what others are saying. . . . We need to cut off the garbled static of our own preoccupations to give to people who want our quiet attention.” ~ Eugene C. Kennedy, Free To Be Human

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Filed under Commentary, Food For Thought, Living, Opinion

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