My best friend O. spent the past couple of days with me. I hadn’t seen her in years, and it was a complete joy to have her all to myself for a few days.
The only thing that (I thought) spoiled the perfect joy of these few days is that I caught a cold and had a sore throat.
Interesting how, when my throat hurts, I think twice about what I want to say, and only speak what’s necessary.
My body’s pain avoidance mechanism prompted me to be very conservative in using my voice. I have a feeling that made me a better friend.
I listened more, thought more, and offered what I hope were thoughtful responses.
I’m starved for company and conversation, and like many lonely people, when I have a friendly audience, I tend to talk a lot. My urge to talk, to express myself, takes over me. But this time, my sore throat kept me in check. I didn’t offer “me, too” stories in response to my friend’s experiences. I didn’t jump in and offer uncooked opinions and reactions. I spoke only when the need to say something was greater than the pain in my throat.
As I was reflecting upon the experience, it dawned on my that speaking should hurt. Communication is a two-way street, but we spend most of our time and effort in one lane: we talk. We send messages and spend too little time listening in receiving.
In college, we teach speech (public speaking), but we don’t teach listening.
In public relations, we are quick to issue messages, and slow to take in everything we should be listening to.
What would you be like if speaking hurt? Would your relationships be any different?
What would PR be like?
[06.26.08 update] See also Chris Brogan’s post Five Tools I Use for Listening (OK, it’s meant to promote Radian 6 and their twebinar, but still, useful information).