What people want: Shut up and listen!

“Many people call a doctor when all they want is an audience.” ~Dale Carnegie.

Sometimes, the biggest challenge is to shut up and listen! Sometimes, it’s just not about you. Sometimes, the best gift you can give involves your two ears and not your one mouth.

What if you went through a complete day looking to fulfill the needs of other people? What if you didn’t think one minute about what you want or need? What if you observed, listened and sought to strengthen the value of everyone with whom you came into contact?

In the end, you’ll find that you are more rewarded, you are more fulfilled!

Elizabeth and I have noticed that people enjoy talking about themselves. You’ve noticed it too. It’s not surprising, nor is it a recent change in societal experience. People relish the idea of telling their story. It’s not that they don’t care about you, but they care more about themselves.

Have you noticed? People have a short attention span and will always have someplace to go when the conversation is about you. But they’ll hang around all day when you say “tell me your story!” or “tell me about yourself”.

Here’s what we’ve found that most people want — no, need! — to build confidence and self-esteem in today’s world.

People need to talk about themselves.

They want to tell their story. Yes, sometimes, it can drag you down, other times it can inspire you. Yet people have an insatiable need to tell you about themselves. The more you listen, the more you hear. The more you hear, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you change. If you want to become a leader, if you want to have an impact, if you want to be a world-changer, you will listen. And listen. And hear. And learn. And change.

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

People need to be heard.

As Dale Carnegie said in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, sometimes you need someone to hear you out, you don’t need a professional to analyze your situation. Listening to people can be an act of loyalty or even obligation. Hearing them out is something completely different.

In fact, it can also include hearing what is not being said. Listening is done with the mind, hearing with the heart. You care when you hear. You are moved when you hear. It’s not necessarily that people have reached the right conclusions and their beliefs may not be built on solid foundations, but it is who they are, it is their story, it is their journey.

And they need to tell it.

People need to be respected.

Albert Einstein said: “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”

Everyone has success in their lives. Everyone has mountains and valleys. Sometimes the mountain top experiences are few and sometimes people get stuck in the valleys. Either way, people want to know you respect them for the who they are, not disdain them for what they’ve done (or haven’t done).

The great singer Ethel Waters said: “I know I’m somebody ’cause God don’t make no junk!” Remember, when you look down on someone, someone else is looking down on you.

Find someone and hear them out. Respect where they’ve been. Ask questions about their journey. Try it today, whether you come into contact with the mayor, a college professor or someone who is homeless.

People need to know they are valued.

People want to know that they have significance. They want to know they are valued. I’ve seen this in business after business, church after church, industry after industry. And, unfortunately, home after home. Today more than ever, people do not feel valued and appreciated.

You may think people leave their jobs because of pay or promotions. In some cases that is true. Yet, 79 percent of Americans who leave their jobs quit because they don’t feel appreciated.

Unfortunately, my observation shows that some employers, pastors, business owners and others just don’t get it.

People want to know that what they do and who they are have value to the community, to their job, to their family and to their church. My wife recently did an event for a company where people were invited to spin a wheel to win a prize. One of the winning items on the wheel was a “free hug”.

Most of us would smile and probably take the hug as just another part of our day. One lady, however, was ecstatic and said: “When you live alone, free hugs are hard to come by.”

People want to know they have value. People want to believe you care about them. People want to experience the center of your attention and world, if even for a moment.

It is difficult to keep your mouth shut at times. We all want to tell our story, we all want to be heard, we all want to be valued.

The great Carnegie wrote: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” 

If you need to be heard, listen. If you want respect, find someone who needs respect. If you want to be valued, value someone else. In other words, you’ll reap what you sow.

And, remember, you don’t have to be a doctor or a professional. Be an audience of one.

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