I was watching an interesting talk show and the guest that day happened to be Wole Sonyika. I think when we think of Africans who have elevated the status of our continent, Wole Sonyika’s name features amongst the great. Sonyika is a legendary Nigerian playwright and poet. He was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in literature, the first African to be honoured in that category. The talk show host asked him quite a few interesting questions and his responses were also quite ingenious, obviously not shocking coming from a writer/artist.

But, there was one question that really stood out for me. She asked, ‘Sir, what did you learn from your childhood that has shaped you to be the man that you are today’. He sighed and paused for a while and then said “I spent a lot of my time with adults and around adults, just listening. I was fascinated by the discussions of my elders and that began to shape the way I viewed the world, so yes, listening”. He further went on to echo that it’s very important that people listen and reflect.

I immediately started connecting the dots in my mind recalling a conversation I had with one of my friends. We often raised our concerns about corporate and especially corporate meetings. We noticed that people don’t like listening in meetings. Most people just want to comment and not really listen. What we observed is that some of the comments were a repetition of what someone else had already said, the only difference is they were uttered in bourgeois English. Other comments derailed from the objective of the session.

Sometimes you would witness those characters who like cutting people in the middle of their presentations. If you are a person who prefers to listen attentively so that you completely in tuned with the subject matter and understand what your role is post the meeting, you struggle internally in meetings. There is this unwritten pressure/rule that you just have to say something in a meeting so that you can be seen as someone who is engaged and alert.

I think of my own life, in instances where I have listened I have done a great job. We all fall into the trap of not listening but just hearing. Listening is an effort to not only hear what is being said but listening ensures you analyse and engage with the information you hearing.

I love the scripture that says “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Great listening is a gift. I admire people who really do a lot of listening. I know in my life I have a few of those people and I must say the people who are great listeners are quiet brilliant and full of great wisdom.

As Paul Sloane also said…”Great conversationalists are great listeners. Also, when you listen you learn. When you are speaking you are not learning anything new. Make a conscious effort to focus on what people say. Show that you are interested by asking questions that support and develop the conversation; ‘What do you mean exactly?’,What happened next?’, ‘How did you feel about that?”.  (http://www.lifehack.org)

My enjoy life tip is this- if you really want to make a lasting impact in your business, in your industry and in your relationships, please take a vow to listen more. I Bongeka vow to listen.

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