Listen Up

A modern communicatorI am a stranger in a strange land.

I’ve done something more notable than even Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals. (Yawn.)

I went out in the world and listened. To another person. Hells to the yeah.

It was the most startling experience.

A conversational pause does not mean the person has finished speaking.
–Tom B. Taker

Interpreting every single pause since the dawn of time as “my turn to talk” means you are an asshole.
–Tom B. Taker

My wife was speaking to me. I was listening. Wow. I know. It can happen. Okay, okay. Stay calm. Don’t blow it. Keep it together, man. So far so good.

Then she paused.

This was an industrial heavy-duty kind of a pause. A good ten seconds. In today’s world that is literally an eternity. I had my feelers out. Was she done? Was she waiting on me to comment? Was it my turn?

I still don’t know what came over me but I decided to wait. I was in it for the long haul.

Then, simply, she continued. And she expressed an additional thought that added more to what she had just previously said. A thought that, if I had interrupted, I would never have heard for the rest of my life.

This is it, I thought! The land of milk and honey over the rainbow. That land that assholes never get to see.

It was so earth shattering that a few days later I even tried it again.

When pondering the highly-advanced concept of listening it is perhaps fruitful to examine it in a larger context. Listening is part of the process of “communication.”

Communication can take many forms. It has many uses.

  • To share information
  • To hurt
  • To verbally masturbate
  • To control
  • To feel good about yourself
  • To humiliate
  • To cause pain

Those are all worthy goals, but one thing is clear: Without listening none of those objectives have a remote chance in Hell of success.

Communication has four conditions that must be met:

  • Sender
  • Receiver
  • Medium
  • Message

Eliminate any one of these conditions and you no longer have “communication.” For example, eliminate the sender and you’re left with a classic case of verbal masturbation. Look around you and you can probably see examples of this right now.

Why listen? For one thing, it gives you a big advantage over everyone else. I googled it and found some of the benefits:

  • We listen to obtain information.
  • We listen to understand.
  • We listen for enjoyment.
  • We listen to learn.

Enjoyment? Wow. There must be a lot of masochists out there, denying themselves the pleasure of listening. Fools!

Studies show that an average person remembers only 25 to 50 percent of what they hear.

You want to be one of the few? One of an elite team of listeners that can actually climb up the slippery slope and claim the higher ground and look down on the other people like they are ants? Then listen up!

Guru’s Goals of Communication/Listening

  1. Strive to speak less than fifty percent of the words in every conversation.
  2. Do not think ahead to what you will say when it is finally your turn.
  3. Learn to recognize conversational pauses and resist the urge to speak.
  4. Recognize the moment. Like Yoda says, be mindful of the present. Stay focused.
  5. Don’t attempt to analyze or judge what’s being said. There will be plenty of time for that later.

My theory is that simply by making the effort will automatically put you in the one percent even if you’re not good at it. So go out there and get yourself some communications.

22 responses

  1. I’m away from here for a week and a half and you get 50 per cent more communicative. But in a good way.

    She who is still waiting for another name other than Mrs. Shouts from the Abyss must have been so proud of you. Or wondering if she was living with a pod person.


    1. You could hear a pin drop. But I was talking. Oops.

      She said she did notice something weird was going on. That’s another plus to listening: It messes with people’s heads!


    2. You’re back?! Oh i want to H E A R all about your trip. I consider myself a very good listener. However with that comes being stomped on occasionally. I do tend to pause a lot when talking to Tom. I think it’s cause I’m used to being interrupted. When I was talking, I paused to wait for his spew and nothing came, I started back up again, thinking surely he went into the husband zone and tuned me out. When I found out he was actually listening to me, I almost fell outta my chair.


      1. I’m back but not back in the country. The Mister has upped his intake of wine so when he falls asleep I glom onto his laptop and try to catch up.

        I can see why you’d need to pause a lot with Tom. I suspect you also need to speak…very…slowly. He’s a challenge in so many ways. I hope he treats you right…a trip to Italy sounds about right.


  2. All very true. Filling the pauses is a critical mistake so many people make. Silence is not always a bad thing in communication


    1. Pause does not me pretend like you didn’t hear what I just said and jump in with your own agenda. That’s ping pong, not communication. Thanks for the comment!


  3. Holy Batman! This is a great blog post and believe it or not, we’ve been talking and LISTENING about this in my Monday Wednesday Friday crap I have to attend.


    1. Thanks, Bats. That means a lot coming from you. You’re someone I like to listen to.


  4. Reblogged this on The She Chronicles and commented:
    Enjoy the great shouts from the abyss that is Tom. Great post Tom!


    1. Thanks for the reblog. A rare event to be sure. 🙂


  5. Really good post and a great reminder that even though our lives are increasingly filled with more and more chatter (from all sorts of sources) that stopping to listen and having silence can be very good things. Bravo.


    1. Too kind. Thanks! 🙂


  6. Hmm. I am glad I read this. So how do we know when it is finally okay to talk? (Like I have a creepy feeling it’s not now) I never can figure that one out, but I think maybe if I just never talk I’ll be safe, right? Or does the door eventually begin swinging both ways? Or am I just overthinking this?


    1. I doubt you can overdo it, but it is theoretically possible. 🙂 Thanks for the nice comment. What else you got? I’m listening!


      1. Oh, I think some people stop talking so they can see if you’ll ever interrupt, so’s they can get ticked. I live with that, sometimes, I think. Of course, I’ve been told I think too much, too. And there is that small matter of the tat on my forehead that says, “Correct Me!” Oh, and they say I’m too grumbly. 😉


  7. 90% of communication is listening – active listening.


    1. I’m working on it. All of the stimuli of this culture has had the effect of training me in the wrong direction. I feel like Luke on Degobah being told, “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

      I see two bulldozers in “conversation” and both talk at the same time and I think, “Who is listening?” The answer, of course, is no one. The exercise is one of lighting up their own pleasure centers in the brain in spite of no communication taking place. They have become active non-listeners.


  8. Ummmm… I tried to verbally masturbate once… It took way too long…


    1. Obviously you are doing it wrong. Shoot for 99% of the conversation. The only comments you should allow are “how fascinating.” Stomp everything else.

      It also helps to exclusively talk about yourself. That activates the same pleasure centers in the brain that light up during sexual activity and when eating chocolate.


      1. Nobody does those things like I do those things. I have a better story for every possible topic than anybody else at the party.


  9. I can’t believe you got so many comments on a post about listening. I think there’s a lesson in here somewhere. I’m sure Mrs. SftA would agree.

    PS — have you got a new name for her yet? I thought there was going to be a contest. I want a contest.


    1. And there’s so much more I wanted to say, too. But I forgot it all. Mrs. Abyss recognizes and appreciates my efforts but enthusiastically exclaims that the fall far short. I shall double my efforts!


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