Voltaire said, “When you listen, you have power. When you talk, you give it away.” I’ve been without a voice for three days now (I think it’s coming back). And, other than being completely exhausting, the experience has changed the way I communicate. And, it’s given me a greater connection with those in my life. In our love relationships, greater communication brings greater intimacy. Parents listening to their kids helps build their self-esteem. In the business world, listening saves time and money by preventing misunderstandings. And we always learn more when we listen than when we talk. I’ve been with people where most of my time was spend nodding my head or just listening to them go on and on about themselves. And when those times arose, I often found myself checking out – bored and thinking about my own “stuff.” I could have done the same this week because I literally could only listen for the last three days. But, this week (because I had no choice), I decided to actively listened in these ways: 1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact. Because I couldn’t yell down the stairs, I had to walk right up to the child I wanted to do something, I would touch him/her and direct with eye contact. Look at those who are speaking to you and make eye contact. The connection is amazing (especially with strangers). 2. Minimize distractions. Because it was so hard to hear me, I had to turn off all the noise in order to communicate. I also had to put my phone down and those close to me had to do the same. 3. Respond to show that you understand. I couldn’t say much so I had to choose my words wisely. Instead of “uh-huh” and “um-hmm.” I’d raise my eyebrows and would say something like, “What happened next?” This allowed for deeper conversations. 4. Minimize internal distractions. It’s easy to let your own thoughts get in the way of listening. I made a point of letting those thoughts go and continuously re-focusing my attention on the speaker. I really learned so much more than if I’d been in my head. 5. Keep an open mind. I disagreed less because I didn’t have the energy to try to talk. That resulted in my learning more about what the person was talking about. 6. Don’t say what you’d do. We often tell people how we would have handled a particular situation. Unless someone is actually asking for advice, they just want to be heard and acknowledged. Ironically, as I listened more, I had a better aptitude for conversation. In fact, a friend complimented me on my conversational skills and I hadn’t said more than four words – yet, I listened for 15 minutes! I hope none of you picks up this bug. But if you do, use it as an opportunity to re-engage your listening skills. You will make everyone around you feel better – and you’ll learn something in the process! Have a great day!