‘When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

Someone cynically quips..

Would you honestly say most people have anything worthy of listening to?

Another says,

There are folks I wouldn’t bother listening to. It would be a monumental waste of time for both parties. This is simply because you already know how vacuous their thinking faculty has demonstrated in the past

Someone agrees, and says..

There’s no point listening to some typical Nigerians, especially some pathologically negative ones.

Yet another person introspectively wonders ..

However, I would really love to know if it’s better to be a good listener rather than a great communicator. Can you communicate in silence.?

This was the short conversation that triggered this post.


Is it better to listen more than talk? What and by extension, who, you listen to is vitally important. Is it not written, guard your ears with all diligence?. A holy book says, be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, inter alia.

Most leaders are great communicators than listeners. They have clarity of thought, communicate their internal ruminations unequivocally. They certainly didn’t get to become leaders by allowing the initiative to be grabbed by listening too much. A leader doesn’t need to be as (always) right as much as he needs to appear decisive.

photo courtesy - n2growth.com

photo courtesy – n2growth.com

Of course, one of the ways recommended for making friends quickly is to be an ‘active listener’. Being an active listener also implies being a more passive talker, as you can’t talk and listen simultaneously. Ironically, he who listens is seen more as a great conversationalist by some people.

It would appear that a leader can’t afford to be too much of a friend by listening too intently?

In his book, How to win friends and influence people , Dale Carnegie advises that we listen actively.


They say the world makes a way for he who knows where he is going. Literally and figuratively (Try it, when in a hurry, shoulder your way through a crowd made up of those who don’t have the same sense of urgency, or purpose , and see how the road is quickly parted for you to make your headway)

Same in communication..

There are certainly people worth listening to, that you learn from greatly. But on a general note, You can not stand out without stepping out . And you can’t step out unless you take the driver’s seat in important conversations. Cassius Clay, the boxing legend, had the habit of absorbing all that his opponent can throw before attacking back,while the martial arts teach that you use your opponent’s strength to defeat him. But, that’s in violent physical sports.

Patience, and listening more, would work better in certain situations, but in this generally pushy and assertive world, he who speaks up more grabs most of the attention. Just like The patient dog eating no bones, listening patiently has a way of getting you swept aside.


It has been observed that the people who become leaders in most circles are generally those who are articulate in presenting clear thoughts. On In addition to, or apart from physical structure, or social standing, verbal assertiveness is key in ruffling the right feathers. In public and private interactions.

Check it out..in classrooms, in religious places, political arena and social gatherings, among any group of people, those that generally get noticed are those who speak up… they do more talking than listening. Not just making inordinate noise that abrades, but useful constructive noise. Reticence would take you only so far. But no further.

Perhaps a way of ‘listening’ more is NOT by doing that in face to face important conversations, but by reading up great minds in great works, listening to televison/radio. You are then better fortified with superior ‘arsenal’ in confrontational or important conversations where assertiveness is non negotiable.

Remember, he who can out talk you probably has you in his pockets ready , or under his feet. You can’t dominate a conversation by listening more, unless you have some leverage already (like wealth, or some other societal status).

So, nu all means,let us speak more, listen less, be heard loudly. Silence is not golden. Reticence is minimally an admission of an empty head, or a tremulous heart, at best.

Aye, or, nay?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *