Inspiration

Listening is Learning

May 17, 2011
Listen - Melvin Gaal

Today’s post is from my friend, Dave Ursillo, who has an incredible outlook on life and approach to leadership. I have never asked anyone to guest post before, but Dave’s message was so resonant with me, I couldn’t help but share. Special thanks to Dave for the post!


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“Those who know don’t talk. Those who talk don’t know.” ~Lao Tsu, Tao te Ching

Life has gotten loud.

From the moment we wake up in the morning and until we finally drift off into sleep at night, we are bombarded by a nearly constant stream of noise, commotion and loudness.

We surround ourselves with noisy devices and a loud lifestyle: for me, my phone alarm wakes me up in the morning; I transition into some music on iTunes to start the day over coffee, varying between audio books and sports talk radio throughout most of my days. At night, television entertainment in the form of sitcoms and big sports games consumes the attention of my roommates and me.

But that’s not the only noise that has grown to consume every waking minute of our lives.

The Noise of Life

We’re also constantly bombarded by opinion and debate, judgement and disagreement.

In our opinion-rich culture, it’s not that these cornerstones of democratic rule and a choice-based capitalist system are intrinsically bad, but the constant stream of noisiness that has grown to consume our lives has created a dangerous social norm along with it: one that espouses the strength of loudness, the power of noise, and the idea that you (or your ideas, beliefs, lifestyle, etc.) are necessarily weak if you don’t defend them loudly.

Listen - Melvin GaalAs Lao Tsu espoused thousands of years ago in the quote above, quietness is more indicative of genuine knowledge and confidence than weakness or unintelligence. The same sentiment was echoed by writer Mark Twain (variations often attributed to Abraham Lincoln as well) centuries later when he said,

“Tis better to remain silent and appear a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”

It seems that the intrinsic value or strength of steadfastness in silence has transcended culture and time over the course of history.

However, especially in the mix of life’s increasing loudness today, a shared cultural understanding of the apparent value of loudness has developed. We’ve grown accustomed to assuming that loudness is naturally better than quiet; that noise competitively trumps silence:

  • when you shout in a debate you’ll win, because being louder obviously means what you’re saying is better and makes more sense
  • when you’re louder among a group of friends, you’re the more popular one because everyone else has no choice but to listen to you. And so on, and so on.

Lessons of an Introvert

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my two years of full-time writing and life-exploring at my blog, DaveUrsillo.com, is the intrinsic strength of silence and the power of learning from listening. For years and years of my life, I considered being rather introverted as a distinct disadvantage or weakness over being an alpha, extroverted personality.

Something about being extroverted seemed naturally stronger, more attractive, naturally better.

However, with time I’ve learned that being an introvert (and striving to avoid the “noise”) has provided me with a unique strength that outwardly expressive types often miss: the incredible value of listening to others and observing behaviors and motivations. I’ve even become adept at detecting the energy that others are emitting — beyond reading body language and the usual, “arms crossed means disengaged,” “furrowed brow reveals agitation” stuff that we gradually pick up on.

Indeed, through the strength of observant silence and the incredible learning tool of listening, I’ve been afforded the privilege to take special lessons to heart, genuinely learning and growing every single day that I live among people and society at large.

For you, whether you’re more introverted or extroverted, naturally boisterous or more quiet in demeanor, the lesson holds true: listening is a special tool for learning about people, this world, and even life itself.

Among the clutter of noise and the cultural belief that loudness is stronger than silence, strive to observe the power of quiet and inherent importance of listening as a learning tool in our lives. The more you come to observe it day to day, at home and at work, the more you will begin to nurture a greater knowledge and confidence in remaining still, remaining calm, and remaining quiet amid a world of commotion and noise.

***

Photo: Melvin Gaal


Dave UrsilloDave Ursillo is a 25-year old professional writer, dreamer and life-explorer at his blog, DaveUrsillo.com. He writes to explore life, this world and its people. Dave is also a leadership speaker and the founder of the “Lead Without Followers” alternative-leadership movement (LeadWithoutFollowers.com).

Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, or invite Dave to speak today!

16 Comments

  • Reply Dave Ursillo May 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Hey Brandon! Thanks for the invitation to write something special for your community here on your blog. I hope it resonates with your readers!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton May 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      Hey Dave – thanks so much for the post.  You’re my first guest author here on my blog. 🙂

      Your message of the power of listening really resonates with me. This is a skill that our society doesn’t really teach, but one that is so important to leading a fulfilling life. I appreciate you sharing your wisdom on this topic here.  I have learned quite a bit from listening to you.  I hope others will have this same experience.

      Thanks again!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton May 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      Hey Dave – thanks so much for the post.  You’re my first guest author here on my blog. 🙂

      Your message of the power of listening really resonates with me. This is a skill that our society doesn’t really teach, but one that is so important to leading a fulfilling life. I appreciate you sharing your wisdom on this topic here.  I have learned quite a bit from listening to you.  I hope others will have this same experience.

      Thanks again!

  • Reply Simone Lipscomb May 17, 2011 at 1:49 pm

     I spent last week ‘unplugged.’ No iphone, no computer, no TV. I spent a lot of time underwater, where the only thing I heard was bubbles escaping from my scuba regulator and the clicking of shrimp on the reef. At one point, a local cat curled up in the chair next to me and reminded me of what quiet contemplation can do to heal my busy mind. In my week of unplugging I found solace in my own company and craved time alone. I re-friended myself. 

    • Reply Brandon Sutton May 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm

      I really like how you put that, Simone – ‘I re-friended myself.’  I know exactly what you mean.  I haven’t been disconnected in a while, and I’m definitely feeling it.

      Isn’t it amazing how being still with an animal can calm the mind? 

    • Reply Dave Ursillo May 17, 2011 at 11:08 pm

      Hey Simone!

      It sounds like you had an excellent experience unplugged. It’s important to disconnect, if only to remind oneself (as you reminded yourself) of the positive impacts of quiet contemplation and inner reflection, especially as the means to better know oneself!

  • Reply Darcie May 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Wow, this article resonated very strongly with me!  Thank you Dave for writing this and thank you Brandon for sharing.

    I tend to be quiet and think before I speak.  I am also a great listener and always strive to understand others and where they are coming from. Unfortunately, my whole life I have felt weaker than the alpha types personalities.  I have also wished I could be more outspoken.  

    It was very nice to hear Dave’s point of view.  I need to embrace who I am and know that introverts are strong in their own way.

    “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”  ~Epictetus

    • Reply Brandon Sutton May 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm

      I’m glad this resonated with you Darcie. There is definitely a balance to strike in these situations.  I’ve found that by listening, I find my own voice.  But it’s still up to me to let my voice be heard. 

      I think each of us can express ourselves in our own way.  It doesn’t always mean being the loudest voice in the room. 

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.  Btw, Dave is pretty awesome! 🙂

      • Reply Darcie Jolliff May 19, 2011 at 3:25 am

        Yes, completely agree Brandon!  There does need to be a balance.

        He is awesome!

    • Reply Dave Ursillo May 17, 2011 at 11:06 pm

      Hi Darcie! Well, I’m very happy that this piece spoke to you so strongly. We introverts gotta stick together, right? 🙂

      Feeling like you, being a so-called introvert is a funny thing. As I’ve written here, it does have its upsides. Interestingly enough, further, even as a self-described introvert, I somehow have a natural knack for public speaking. In spite of feeling very anxious and nervous, when I get into a groove I can do quite well in front of big crowds.

      So, I mention this to suggest that even with these self-described personality traits, there is no reason why we cannot perform “alpha” activities and embody outward expressiveness with success!

      All my best,
      Dave

      • Reply Darcie Jolliff May 19, 2011 at 3:23 am

        We do need to stick together, lol.  

        Yes, speaking in front of crowds makes me extremely nervous but I have also found that I do very well.  I think as an “introvert”, I find such a great satisfaction and sense of accomplishment when I do perform “alpha” activities with success!  

        In the past several months I have really pushed myself to do things I am not completely comfortable with.  As a result, I have grown a lot and have really showed myself that I can accomplish anything.  

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