When to listen and when to speak


We all hear and we all listen, but there is a big difference between the two in quality and quantity. 

When we hear, we hear words. When we are not paying attention, we hear sound. If we look attentive, we can often get away with not listening, but listening gives us – and the speaker – something far greater.

When we listen, we listen for tone and inflections, and we see expressions. We pick up feelings and intent, especially if we listen well. We can even perceive when the words we hear are not sincere or heartfelt.

Listening is an art and a great skill. If we learn to listen well, we can often get to the heart of the matter.

The words we use also count. The well-known phrase “Treat others as you want to be treated” applies in all situations in both business and our personal lives.

In Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’ article, “The Spirituality of Listening,” at Aish.com, he states, “In revelation, God speaks to us. In prayer, we speak to God. If you want to understand any relationship, between husband and wife, or parent and child, or employer and employee, pay close attention to how they speak and listen to one another. Ignore everything else.”

Here are some tips about when to be silent and when to speak, especially when working with clients:

  • Talk when you have something to say that the other person wants to hear.
  • Listen when someone has something to tell you and needs to talk.
  • Talk when you need to express yourself and the time is right.
  • Listen first in a new situation. Assess the environment and speak when you can contribute to the topic or have an example to share.
  • Set up appointments to talk with people who have busy schedules.
  • When calling, don’t immediately launch into an in-depth conversation; ask the person if this is a good time to talk.

I have learned that people tend to listen when the words have meaning for them, and shut down when others talk too much or too fast, are repetitious, or say things that are not of interest.

Interestingly, listening well is how we learn what to say and how to say it.

Silence is golden – and so is speech when it’s balanced and meets the needs of both the speaker and the listener.

 “Listening lies at the very heart of relationships,” Sacks writes. “It means that we are open to the other, that we respect him or her, that their perceptions and feelings matter to us. We give them permission to be honest, even if this means making ourselves vulnerable in so doing.

“A good parent listens to their child. A good employer listens to his or her workers. A good company listens to its customers or clients. A good leader listens to those he or she leads.

“Listening does not mean agreeing but it does mean caring. Listening is the climate in which love and respect grow.”

PATRICIA RASKINowner of Raskin Resources Productions, is a media host, podcast coach and award-winning radio producer and business owner. She serves on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence. She is a recipient of Providence Business News 2020 Leaders and Achievers award.