Listening versus Hearing

In the Quentin Tartantino film “Pulp Fiction” there is a piece of dialogue that has always resonated for me.

Jules (Samuel L. Jackson):  “In conversation, do you listen or wait to talk?”

Vincent (John Travolta) : “I have to admit that I wait to talk, but I’m trying harder to listen.”

As a communicator, I am certain 80% of my messages are heard but not absorbed.  The recipient needs to be engaged, ready to listen for the message to stick.  Sometimes, people are ready to receive your message.

I’ve been spending more time learning about listening.  We need several senses working together to really listen.  Body language, tone of voice or inflection, readiness/timing and the kind of words being used are all part of communication.

I am not a hater of technology.  You won’t hear me say ‘we’ve lost our ability to effectively communicate’ due to email, texting and social media.  In fact, I think we are communicating more than ever.  However, since so much more information is passed directionally and not face-to-face, we need to work harder to listen.

I’m trying harder to pause before replying to some messages, pause before selecting like or commenting on a post.  In that moment, I am thinking about the context and timing.  I try to use clues like noticing when the message was sent and whether it was created by the individual or just shared.

As someone who always has something to say, I know I will be a better connector if I listen more.

How do you listen?  Please send me your story of a time you waited to talk and heard something important!



“Tell me your story…”

When I had joined a new organization, a colleague asked me  “So, Sarah, tell me your story.”

I have shamelessly used this line when I am meeting new people to engage them to talk.  It is phrased as a command but the person asking the question is showing interest in you.  Most everyone enjoys sincere attention.

It was one of the kindest ‘questions’ ever.

What if the person replies with “I don’t have a story” or “I don’t know what you mean”?  Then, it’s time to use a prompting question.  But ask something that is pretty common and something you might be able to have in common.  How about:

  • “Where did you go to elementary school and what was your favorite lunch food?”  Yeah.  This is information never listed on a resume.
  • Or even “what was your favorite cartoon as a child” can start quite a dialogue.

Everyone’s story starts somewhere, when trying to meet someone new, why not ask about their’s?

lunch box

Dedicated to Jessica Barboline for asking for my story!

Talking my way through it

Over the years, many of my school teachers wrote a similar comment on my report card, “a joy to have in class but talks too much.”  I urged my parents to focus on the “joy” but they wanted me to work on the “talking”.   I now recognize my talking wasn’t negative but it might have been disruptive.

I haven’t stopped talking but I’ve gotten better at waiting my turn!   So imagine my ‘joy’ when three people over the course of a weekend encouraged me to share my skill and comfort at conversation with others.

Through this blog, I hope to share ideas about how I use communication to connect with others.  This ability has helped me in several industries such as fund raising, community relations  school administration and now in sales.

Of course, I think I talked my husband into marrying me and I never stop talking to my three children (sometimes they even listen.)

I believe how we create dialogue with others is a key strategy for success.  So I hope you offer feedback, question my ideas or suggest tips that have worked for you in the comments section.  Of course, you can always e-mail me and we can just…talk.

I’ll get us started: “Hello, my name is Sarah.  What is yours?”

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton