I recently attended a meeting where our guest speaker, Boaz Rauchwerger, made an interesting point and an outstanding suggestion about communication between people. Paraphrasing, his comment was, in any conversation, listen carefully to the last two words of each sentence spoken by the other person. Why? Because most of us are so concerned about responding to the other with our own thoughts and opinions that we fail to hear exactly what is being said. If we listen for the last two words we will force ourselves to hear the entire thought being delivered. Who is Boaz? First, he’s a very smart guy. Second, I would categorize Boaz as an inspirational speaker, www.BoazPower.com.
My immediate thought when I heard his remark was, “Guilty as charged.”
Through the years I’ve heard people say that everyone should practice being a “good listener.” What is a good listener? Here’s an example of good listening without any understanding.
My grandmother, Felice, had immigrated from Italy in her early twenties. Many years ago when I was in my mid-twenties, my Grandma was in her mid-eighties. Throughout her life, Grandma maintained friendships with some of the folks in her neighborhood that had also moved from Italy and made America their home. One day I stopped to pay grandma a visit. Grandma’s best friend, Assunta DiNicola was also there for a visit that day. Assunta was also from the old country and she too, like Grandma, was in her eighties. Grandma was busy in the kitchen and I was left alone with Mrs. DiNicola in the adjacent living room.
Mrs. DiNicola began speaking to me in Italian, assuming that I could understand and speak Italian. Unfortunately, the extent of my Italian vocabulary was about thirty words, like Buon Natale (Merry Christmas), Buona Pasqua (Happy Easter), Buongiorno (Good Morning) and a smattering of Italian swear words.
Mrs. DiNicola began speaking to me in Italian like a runaway freight train. I remember thinking, “Oh boy, I’m in trouble now!” However, not wanting to cause any embarrassment, and also wondering if I may be able to get away with pretending to understand, I began listening and nodding my head with an occasional response of “Ahah…Mmhmm…and Yes.” Grandma occasionally responded in Italian from the kitchen saving me from getting caught in my charade. In all, I probably understood about six words in about twenty minutes of Mrs. DiNicola speaking non-stop at me.
Good listener? You bet! Good communicator? Obviously not. Also, very obviously, whether it was the first two or the last two words spoken to me that day it didn’t matter.
Fortunately, I didn’t get caught and the time came that I had to leave. With a hug and a kiss I was able to tell Assunta DiNicola, in English, that it was so nice to see her again. And Mrs DiNicola, in English, responded in like manner. I kissed Grandma goodbye and then made my way to the door.
So is being good listener all that it takes? Obviously not.
There is also the practice of active listening. “Active listening is a communication technique used in counseling, training, and conflict resolution. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.”* Some say to truly be an active listener, one must repeat back to the speaker what the listener understood the other has said. So obviously there is a big difference between good listening and active listening.
Boaz’s suggestion of listening to the last two words spoken is a path to better communication.
How important can two words be? How about these examples…”storm coming,” “college tuition,” “I will,” “I won’t,” “slow down,” “tight curve,” “reduce speed,” “day off,” “high score,” “you win,” “you lose,” “I quit,” and perhaps the most important two words ever spoken, “I do.”
For more on communication check out this blog on customer satisfaction.
About the Author
My name’s Jim Knapp, in the office they call me Jim. I don’t know where they got that one from, but it suites me. I’m partial to being outside, regardless of the season. As long as I can remember I’ve been a tree freak. Being older I’ve stopped climbing them, but I spend a lot of time trying to identify & learn about them. In that vein my favorite hobbies are hiking & kayaking. A great place to do those things is Acadia National Park in Maine.More Content by Jim Knapp