I was born with a limited filter. Meaning, when it came to speaking my mind, I suffered from what I call the “open mouth syndrome.” Just ask my wife Tracy who has joked about the number of times she has wanted to body slam my unfiltered words as they exited my mouth and steam-rolled into the ears of innocent bystanders.
Over the years, I have diligently worked on closing my mouth, and slowly I have been able to apply a stop process that has helped me both professionally and personally.
For instance, in my personal life, I no longer meet Tracy’s difference of opinion with an aggressive retort, but rather I try to engage in empathetic dialog.
In my professional life, I have learned to allow my brain to process information prior to generously donating loud articulations. The outcome has been nothing short of magical in that my relationships both personally and professionally are much more prosperous.
Below, you’ll learn about the emotional medicine I used to treat my open mouth syndrome. But before you do, let’s see if you too suffer from the condition that can negatively affect both your career and personal life!
Here are a few questions to ponder:
That last one is one that I was personally guilty of in my relationship with my wife, Tracy, for years. If you said yes to one or more of the questions above, you probably have open mouth syndrome.
If you find that you suffer from the open mouth syndrome, I have an easy remedy for you. It comes from the advice of our founding President George Washington, who wisely said, “Think before you speak.”
Though he didn’t know it at the time, President Washington was speaking on something that today we call “active listening,” which is the art of hearing the other person first, before responding in conversation.
If you are curious about what active listening looks like, examples include learning to hear why a client is selling or buying their house before you pitch them your brand.
Or, it’s learning to hear the point of view of an agent who is presenting a less-than offer, rather than dismissing them instantly. Or, it’s learning to have good bedside manners toward our “back seat driver” clients who are practicing real estate without a license by trying to tell us how to do our job.
Or, as the late attorney Donn Kemble, my father and mentor, would say to me as we would smoke our cigars and drink our cognac together, “Son, if a person wants to say the moon is made out of cheese, don’t waste your breath arguing your point. Just ask them, ‘And what kind of cheese would that be?'”
He never had the need to show how smart he was or belittle a person by pointing out how absurd they were. He instead taught me the five simple steps to becoming a better listener listed below.
The 5 steps to becoming a better listener
1. Listen with silence
The first step to becoming a better listener is learning the art of silence. As mentioned earlier, listen and silent are anagrams, meaning they are words made up of the same letters. Therefore, when someone speaks, close your mouth, open your ears and simply listen to what they have to say.
2. Be present
The second step in the art of listening is making the effort to be present. In this day and age of over-stimulation, smartphone distraction and preoccupation keep us from being present to the person in front of us.
The rule of thumb for being present is to remember that our presence is a present to those we encounter.
3. Expand your viewfinder
Remember that difference is what makes the world go around. In other words, be open-minded to various points of view, especially the ones that don’t align with yours. It’s easy for all of us to focus on our own needs and dismiss the input of others.
But when we do this, we run the risk of missing the essence of what is behind the communication of the other party. It might not be your cup of tea, but then again, you might just learn an unexpected lesson along the journey.
4. Take a breath, and don’t be immediate
One of the biggest mistakes we make in poor listening is responding too quickly. In fact, not every issue requires an immediate answer. Most issues should be analyzed before you respond verbally or in writing.
My father, who was also an attorney, said it best when he would advise me, “Spyro, assume that anything you say in writing, a judge will read back to you one day in court.” What he meant is, never respond in haste and say things that you might regret one day. Or, in other words, learn to argue both sides of the issue in your head before you respond with your mouth.
5. Remove your ‘ego’ from the conversation
In communicating, there is something called, “emotional arm wrestling,” where winning is more important than resolving.
The final step to becoming a better listener is to wisely choose your battles.
This means to determine if you want to be right, or if you want to make the deal work. Sometimes it’s better to let the other agent connect the dots of the deal and allow him or her to come to the conclusion at hand, leading you both to a win-win deal for the client.
It has been said by world leaders and relationship experts that the greatest human hinderance is a breakdown in communication. My belief is that this fracture can be repaired by learning the art of listening and the simple century-old gift of learning to think before we speak.
It’s the cure to open mouth syndrome that will not only open the door to getting better clients and better deals, but most importantly to me, to becoming a better spouse.
Make it a point to touch someone’s life today with the gift of active listening.