My kids know a saying I have: “If your mouth is open your ears are closed.” Of course what I mean is that if you are interrupting a speaker or just waiting to get something out odds are you are not really listening to what the other person is saying. And this is a problem because professionally and personally communication is everything. You want and need to be understood, but you also need to understand the speaker.

Listening is more than simply “not speaking”. Give others your undivided attention. Set aside your own judgments and preconceived notions. Listen with focus.  Most importantly, listen to understand.  This is more than just not speaking – although that is a good start. It is about having effective verbal communications with those around you.

Many of us are much more comfortable talking than listening. Many of us are thinking about how we are going to respond while the other person is still talking. But how can you effectively listen when you are thinking about anything other than what the other person is saying.

And what I just said ignores an important topic for another day: non-verbal communication.  According to published statistics, as much as 70% of meaning is conveyed by non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, body language and the tone and cadence of the speaker….

So your challenge for the week it to open your ears, shut your mouth, and see if it makes a difference in your conversations.