I debated on if I should even share the first part of this story, because I know that whenever there is talk about a sore or anything near the mouth, people’s minds tend to wander to a place of salaciousness, but whatever, I’m going to be honest and tell the story in whole. A few months back I started using this new mouth wash that really irritated my mouth and in turn I experienced the worse canker sore in the history of all canker sores. The sore was on the side of my tongue, it was beyond painful and it lasted a little more than a week, I was miserable to say the least. On the fourth day of having it, the pain had reached the point of excruciation and I couldn’t speak…at all. It was one of the best things that could have happened to me.
We all have busy lives, but try to stop for a second and imagine living that life on mute. I went to the post office, grocery shopping, to work and many other places where I had to communicate with people. I relied upon head nods, smiles, sad faces, a notepad and thumbs up/thumbs down gestures to get my point across, you would’ve thought you were watching one of the films from the silent era. It was terrible, it was frustrating and all in all I felt like a baby trying to express my thoughts without words, but it was also fascinating to see how good people were at deciphering what I was trying to tell them without using words. I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty good listener, I’ve always been open to giving advice to friends, family, even strangers who find that I have a trusting face and need to confide, but not being able to speak was a painful reminder that there is always room for personal growth.
In the two days that I couldn’t speak I realized just how bad of a listener I truly was, I realized how much I unnecessarily speak, I realized how much I cut people off and I realized how much I talk out of turn before a person can even get their thought out and it forced me to see how selfish and greedy we can allow our tongues to make us. Selfish because we don’t want to share the floor and greedy because we feel the need to take credit for all of the thoughts that are being uttered. It wasn’t as though I was being rude (not intentionally), but in hindsight it was absolutely obnoxious of me and sometimes I wish others could lose their ability to speak temporarily, just so they could see how much dialogue is wasted, and many times it’s wasted on being negative about irrelevant situations and others. In those two days that I couldn’t speak it was as though someone was revealing to me a new way of living my life, which is not always easy, active listening is something that takes practice and if you want to be really good at it then it takes practice as well as discipline. Often times we “listen” to people, but during the process we are coming up with our own assumptions, scenarios and conclusions, which isn’t really pure, unadulterated message receiving at all, it’s really just another way to boost our own egos and say to ourselves “man I’m good, I need my own talk show or advice column,” and when it comes to loved ones and those closest to us, we really don’t listen because we feel we already know what they are saying and just sum it up for them.
There was a study that stated 93 percent of communication is determined by nonverbal cues, so the other seven percent is verbal, if that’s true then that means what we don’t say can be way more important than what we do say and of course how we say it plays a major part as well.
There are so many quotes about listening but I once read a quote that really stood out to me, it said “listen 90% of the time and talk 10% of the time”. While I’m not always good at it, I truly believe that and want to work on being a better listener. When we listen we learn and grow and even though growing can be painful at times, it’s always an accomplishment.