80/20 Vision

Martin Luther King, Jr. Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and Billy Graham. What do you think when you hear these names? What do they have in common? Most would say they are some of the best speakers of the modern era. They were gifted and could move the masses with their words. They had charisma. They were inspiring. All of these are true, but one thing that could be easily overlooked is their ability to listen.

These great speaking figures knew how to move people to action because they knew how they felt and what they believed. They spoke confidently because they had listened. They had substance because they had taken the time to receive it from their audience. They motivated others because they allowed others to motivate themselves.

Listening is a way of seeing. Without listening, we are blind to our surroundings, our clients, co-workers, and employees. My mother always used to tell me that God gave me two ears and one mouth, so I should listen twice as much as I speak. As great of advice as that was, I have learned even that is not enough. As a general rule of thumb, one should abide by the 80/20 rule. Listen 80% of the time and speak only 20% of the time.

The fear of public speaking, known as gloss phobia, commonly ranks as one of the top phobias in various surveys across the country. Speaking well can be a difficult and scary thing that takes courage to overcome, but remember, speaking is only 20% of the equation. I believe the great Sir Winston Churchill put it best, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Listening allows us to become better speakers, bosses, employees, friends, family members and citizens. So take a little extra time to listen and I promise you will see improvements in both your relationships and speaking skills.