Exploring Human Potential

7 & 7: Listen vs. Talk


All humans desire to communicate, to express their thoughts. At the same time, all humans desire to be heard. If modeled early, talking comes naturally. Listening is an acquired skill, learned, and relearned, and relearned again. Active listening requires that you not be speaking.  It’s not surprising then that the best listeners choose their words carefully and in small numbers. They let others’ words fill the empty space. The listening is not passive reception but supported by a full range of facial expression and body language that carry with them unique persuasive power. The problem with talking too much goes beyond its opposition to listening. Over talk is sloppy talk – too many errors, too much exaggeration, too much opportunity to say what would be better left unsaid. It is a common mistake to confuse words with knowledge. Fewer words, more carefully chosen, count more. A moment of thought prior to speaking, a little hesitation, improves speech immensely. Hesitation may create silence when we’re accustomed to noise. But better silence than noise for noise’s sake. And actions, in the midst of silence, do always speak louder than words. And one last word on words, they do travel while silence stays put.


People love to talk but hate to listen. Listening is not merely not talking, though even that is beyond most of our powers; it means taking a vigorous human interest in what is being told us. You can listen like a blank wall or like a splendid auditorium where every sound comes back fuller and richer.
Alice Duer Miller

To the good listener, half a word is enough.
Spanish proverb

One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears – by listening to them.
Dean Rusk

Too much talk will include errors.
Burmese proverb

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
Dorothy Nevill

He multiplieth words without knowledge.
Job 35:16

Words should be weighed and not counted.
Yiddish proverb

We need a reason to speak, but none to keep silent.
Pierre Nicole

When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.
Henry J. Kaiser

Whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
Luke 12:13

Speaking without thinking is shooting without taking aim.
Spanish proverb

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