“We have two ears and only one tongue in order that we may hear more and speak less.” - Diogenes Laërtius 

Two months ago, I was in Munich missing a plane for Paris.

Arriving minutes before the gate would close on me, panicking inside, I tried to remain calm while explaining the situation to a ticketing officer. I could not get a word in with this person whose job was to listen to me and solve my problem. Instead, I was only more frustrated and stuck in Munich without a solution.

Related: How to Start Conversations That Make Instant Connections

For the sake of protecting the company’s brand, I won’t mention what airline it was, but it’s safe to say I won’t be flying with them again.

The most powerful way to create an instant connection with your friends, family, co-workers and everyone you will ever meet from this moment on is simple. Just shut up and listen.

Hearing vs. listening. The few people who truly understand the art of listening have a huge competitive advantage in their personal and professional lives. Reflect on the conversations you have with your friends, co-workers, and partner(s).

Who’s doing most of the talking? If it’s you, then keep reading. If it’s not … then keep reading.

Studies show that less than 2 percent of professionals have had formal education on how to listen. We listen at 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1,000-3,000 words per minute. The point of having a conversation with anyone is to connect and understand each other, which in turn will help us find the common ground to understand ourselves. The truth is, most of us are hearing to respond, when we should be listening to understand.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” - Stephen R. Covey

Information is power. Since information is a powerful competitive advantage, you're wise to spend your time acquiring more of it. We should be spending our time learning from others. Everyone has something they can teach us, no matter who they are or where they come from.

When is the last time you learned a valuable lesson by talking until your jaws cramped? For the appropriate breakdown of talking vs listening, I follow the 80/20 rule. When you’re on a date,  in a meeting or attending a networking event, listen 80 percent of the time, talk 20 percent of the time.

Related: How to Start Conversations That Make Instant Connections

The rule-of-thumb is, unless you have earned the right to share your thoughts, such as with your close friends, family or a mentee, stop talking and listen. This is powerful for developing a strong relationship with everyone you meet.

Listen to be heard. We all want to heard. It’s a basic human need.

Have you met someone who seemed to understood everything you said and made you feel like the only person in the room?They were simply nodding their head, reiterating what you had already said and sharing a personal story that seemed remarkably similar to yours.

Probably fewer than 50 words came out of their mouth that entire conversation. Yet, you walked away with a heightened perception of that person’s intelligence, connection and social skills because they genuinely cared. They asked questions that pushed you below the surface level of the everyday small talk. They shared a similarity to you that caused an interpersonal attraction.

“A person only likes his friend to the degree he relates and connects to his character.” - Anuj Somany


I’m not saying all of this is easy but listening is an art that every aspiring leader needs to lead a tribe. While some may be impressed with how well you speak, the people who actually matter care more how well you listen. 

Wherever you are, there will always be someone else that has lived more, led longer, prayed harder, or loved deeper. Open up your ears to the world, put yourself in the shoes of the person in front of you and, for goodness sakes, put away that damn Smartphone.

"Listen'' and "silent" have the same letters for a reason. 

This article originally appeared in The Growth List.

Related: Richard Branson on Why Leading Means Listening