A Wise Old Owl…

Have you ever missed the opportunity to listen to a friend, a significant other, or a co-worker? In this Op-Ed Brad Beck, author, speaker and Liberty Toastmaster, explains that our challenge is to listen respectfully to those voices who might have something important to share even if we disagree with what they have to say. Listening will help sharpen our own position and make our ideas stronger.

A wise old owl sat on an oak. The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard. Now wasn’t he a wise old bird?

The “Wizard of Westwood”, John Wooden would share this rhythm with his student athletes as head coach at UCLA Bruins. Wooden led ten NCAA national basketball championships in a 12-year period yet, Wooden was less concerned about championships, and more concerned about developing good citizens who were active listeners. His winning teams proved his point.

Ask yourself, do you recall ever having taken a course in listening? Most of us have not. As a Distinguished Toastmaster and the founder of six Toastmasters clubs, I understand a little about listening. Most people join Toastmasters, a peer driven public speaking organization, because they wish to practice their oral communication and leadership skills in a fun, friendly safe environment. Yet, most do not realize that we are also joining a world-class listening organization. Most of our time is spent listening to other speakers and evaluating them in both oral and written form. In Toastmasters we practice public speaking and public listening.

I once read that one of the most respected and honorable Justices of the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas has taken this example to heart as well. Justice Thomas understands free speech. Since 2005, Justice Thomas has spoken less than a dozen times during a court argument. Justice Thomas’s long silence is part of the character of the man. When asked why he declines to participate in oral arguments, which are the Supreme Court’s most public ceremony, Justice Thomas responds, “If I invite you to argue your case, I should at least… listen to you,” Justice Thomas is silent out of courtesy and respect.

Never was this more clearly brought to my attention than when my youngest daughter Melissa was a little girl. We were at our friend’s house watching a football game. Melissa was tapping me on the arm trying to get my attention. “Daddy, Daddy” she would say. I kept ignoring her. Frustrated at my not responding, she walked around the chair I was sitting in, shockingly grabbed me by the face and said, “Daddy, you’re not listening to me!” Wow!!! That stopped me cold. My daughter had something to tell me and I was missing that opportunity, Why? Because I was too busy talking and not listening. My daughter looked up at me and said, “Daddy—I love you!” Then she ran off. I never understood the power of listening better, than right then.

Have you ever missed the opportunity to listen to a friend, a significant other, or a co-worker? Are you listening now? Our challenge is to listen respectfully to those voices who might have something important to share even if we disagree with what they have to say. They may help us sharpen our own position and make our ideas stronger. In her paper, “Great Books as a Remedy for Education,” Elizabeth Eastman, one of the two current Senior Scholars in Residence at the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization at the University of Colorado Boulde,r shares that one of her teachers spoke of the three R’s that a liberal education ought to achieve; respect, rationality, and reverence.” This statement reminds me that we need to be respectful citizens of good character and learn to listen more fully to be able to respond in a way that encourages dialog. Sure, you can disagree with a speaker, yet, we owe ourselves the courtesy of listening to new and challenging ideas. We should dedicate ourselves to become, more persistent and determined listeners. After all our first amendment defends our speaking freely and on listening fully.

A wise old owl sat on an oak. The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard. Now wasn’t he a wise old bird?

 

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