Talk less, listen more: 6 reasons it pays to learn the art

July 29, 2021 - 12 min read

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Why is talking less important?

6 reasons why you should speak less and listen more

Learning the art of listening

Learning how to talk less and listen more makes you a stronger conversationalist

There are a few of us who just love to talk.

We’re often extroverts, and we’ve often got a lot of things to say that we believe others need to hear (it’s not always about the sound of our own voice). 

The thing is, when we’re doing the talking, we’re typically not doing a whole lot of listening, and often not a lot of learning either.

So, there are a few reasons why you might want to talk less, listen more, and become a better conversationalist.

Today, you’ll learn six reasons why you should learn to chat less. We’ll also cover some helpful tips on how to listen more and get more out of the conversations you have every day.

Why is talking less important?

So, why would you want to focus less on communicating your own thoughts and becoming a better listener?

The primary reason is that if you become a good listener, you’ll have better quality conversations.

How?

  • Others will enjoy speaking with you (because we all love to talk), and they’ll open up more
  • You’ll be better able to read non-verbal cues such as body language
  • Others will be more open to your point of view when you do speak
  • You might just learn something new

Benefits like these make developing good listening skills worthwhile.

Let’s look a bit deeper.

6 reasons why you should speak less and listen more

There are many reasons why learning to listen more is important. Let’s look at six of them:

1. You might just learn something

It’s Peterson’s 9th rule for life: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

After all, isn’t that more often going to be the case? Everyone has unique experiences, skills, and talents that you can learn from.

By learning to talk less and listen more, you can reframe your part of the conversation to be more about ‘learning’ than about ‘preaching.’

Let’s look at an example:

You’re having a conversation with your manager at work about how best to approach new sales outreach for the quarter.

You’re adamant that automated email campaigns are the way to go. After all, you’ve been doing them for years and had great success. In fact, it’s one of the reasons you were hired as a sales leader in the first place.

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But the VP of sales has a different idea. They want to initiate cold outreach via LinkedIn.

You’ve spent years crafting your email campaign skills and neglected social outreach because you’ve been getting great results elsewhere.

However, even though you’ve found success with your approach, there is something worth exploring in your boss’s suggestion.

In this scenario, if you’ve learned to listen more and speak less, you might pull some gold nuggets of information from your manager. You might even decide together on a dual approach.

2. You’ll gain the respect and trust of whoever you’re talking to

You’ve probably heard of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It’s one of the most influential and best-selling books of all time, and it’s all about communication and interpersonal relationships.

One of the most valuable recommendations Carnegie makes is that if you can become a great listener and encourage others to speak about themselves, then you’ll gain their respect and admiration.

Think back to the last time you went out on a date, and you went home thinking, “Wow, I really enjoyed myself. We had some great conversations, and they were really interesting.”

How much did you talk about yourself, and how much did they speak about themselves?

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Now, try to think about the last date you went on that was truly terrible (this one might come to mind more easily). Chances are, they spoke about themselves the whole time and barely asked any questions about you.

This phenomenon applies not only to romantic relationships but to interpersonal relationships with friends, family, and colleagues.

Get them to speak about themselves, and you’ll gain their trust, admiration, and respect.

3. You’ll command attention when you do speak

Why is it that so many successful people are able to walk into a room and instantly command attention?

Sure, their success itself is an influencing factor: people want to hear what successful people have to say.

When they do speak, what they say has more impact. Their speech is more concise and more relevant to the conversation at hand than those who speak more regularly.

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Practice the art of listening, and you’ll command more attention when you add to the conversation.

4. You can keep your cards close to your chest

Not every conversation is a casual, comfortable chat with friends.

Some conversations you’ll have, especially in the professional context, can be quite challenging.

You might strongly disagree with the viewpoints of your co-workers. However, the last thing you want to do is get into a heated argument and negatively impact the office culture.

Plus, you can learn more about how they’ve come to develop their point of view since it differs so heavily from yours.

Learning how to speak less and listen more helps you to keep your own opinions close to your chest and allows you to dig deeper into the mindset of others.

This can help avoid workplace conflict, and it aids you in developing a more holistic worldview.

5. You’re less likely to say anything dumb or that you might regret

We’ve all been there.

You’re deeply involved in a conversation you're passionate about, and you’re off on a tangent.

You haven’t quite clicked yet that you’re the only one speaking until you say something that results in an unfavorable reaction from your peers.

Maybe you gave an opinion that’s unsavory, undeveloped, and doesn’t really represent how you think and feel. Maybe you let slip some information that was supposed to be kept private.

Maybe you just minced your words and made a bit of a fool of yourself.

By learning how to talk less and listen more, you give yourself space to develop your ideas. You have more time to formulate these ideas into articulate sentences, and you’re less likely to say something that leaves you blushing.

6. You can keep the conversation going

Conversations die pretty quickly when nobody has anything left to say.

Often, this happens because both parties have said all of the things they wanted to say.

When you’re focused on listening (rather than waiting for an opportunity to speak), you’ll come up with good questions that can keep a conversation going.

You’ll learn more about your conversational partner’s point of view by asking great questions too, and you’ll often find that the conversation is so engaging that you end up discussing points that have seemingly nothing to do with the original talking point.

Learning the art of listening

So, how do you learn how to talk less and listen more?

The best way to work on this is to improve your active listening skills.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Maintain good eye contact. You can infer a lot of meaning by looking the other person in the eye.
  2. Separate judgment. Try not to judge what the other person is saying. You’re likely to go off on a tangent in your head, trying to find ways to explain how they’re wrong.
  3. Don’t jump ahead. We often try to predict what others are going to say next. When we do this, we formulate answers based on what we think they are going to say, rather than what they are actually saying,
  4. Seek to understand, not just to respond. Try to stop waiting for your opportunity to speak and continue to actively listen to what the other person is saying. Let them fully express their ideas before you speak.
  5. Become comfortable with silence. One of the reasons many of us are so eager to speak next is because we feel awkward when there is silence in between speakers. You can reduce this discomfort by communicating to the other party that you are thinking before speaking (a simple ‘hmmm’ works well.)
  6. Reflect back to them what they just said. A great way to show that you’re listening and that you understand what is being said is to repeat back what you’ve just heard. This usually sounds something like, “So what you’re saying is…”
  7. Ask for clarity. If you aren’t able to reflect back to them, it could be that you didn’t fully understand what they meant. Don’t be afraid to ask them to clarify. This will show that you’re actively engaged in the conversation.

Learning how to talk less and listen more makes you a stronger conversationalist

Developing your listening skills and becoming a truly influential conversationalist is one of those ‘easier said than done’ things.

But it’s a challenge that’s well worth investing in, thanks to these six benefits:

  1. You might just learn something
  2. You’ll gain the respect and trust of whoever you’re talking to
  3. You’ll command attention when you do speak
  4. You can keep your cards close to your chest
  5. You’re less likely to say anything dumb or that you might regret
  6. You can keep the conversation going

If you’re reading this as a leader looking to improve your listening and conversational skills, then you’re probably committed to continuous self-development.

Sound like you? Check out how BetterUp helps leaders with organizational growth and transformation.

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Published July 29, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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