You've heard the expression, "Put up or shut up"? Brett Banfe, a 19-year-old sophomore at William Patterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, is doing the latter. Last September, Banfe was inspired to a challenge: Could he be silent for an entire year? He's been quiet ever since. Not that he's leading a hermit-like existence: Banfe began a Web site, took on a publicist and made something of a name for himself. (Motorola even gave him free pagers.) And along the way, Banfe learned a thing or two about listening. Here, he shares them with us (by e-mail, of course).
How has your definition of listening evolved over the past year?
Brett Banfe: Before this year, I had no concept whatsoever of what it really means to listen. Even now I have only a slight concept. Listening seems like a side effect of talking, but talking should be a side effect of listening. There's so much behind the words being said. If you can get more in tune with that, you'll be one up.
Entrepreneurs work with a lot of people-from clients to employees. How do you think listening carefully can help an entrepreneur?
Banfe: Not listening is like having your head in the sand. You need to have your head up, because life moves quickly, and sometimes opportunity comes and goes in a split second.
Also, you have to listen to what the other person is asking for. Some people are asking you to respect them; some are asking you to laugh at their jokes. If you can read people well, you're in a much better position to negotiate. It's often the one who listens best, who can best adapt to the new situation, that wins. If you can listen to your surroundings and environment, you're always in the right place at the right time, aren't you?
There are also times when you shouldn't listen to people. Like whenever they tell you [you can't do something]. Misery loves company, and people on the bottom don't want to see you pass them by.
Do you think being Silent Guy for a year will change your life?
Banfe: Yes, it will definitely change my life. People ask me why I'm doing it. It's like a part of me doesn't even know why, but I'm listening to my heart.
- Brett Banfe
(856) 354-9060, www.notspeaking.com
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.