Winning Words

Listen, keep listening, and listen some more


Have you ever had a conversation with someone who continually tries to compete on everything from vacations to headaches and from sports to life experiences? You know what I mean, right? If there is a chance to talk about themselves, they will.

But let me ask you this ... how often have we been guilty of that ourselves? When someone tells us about their children, do we immediately chime in with a similar story about our own children? Maybe even a competing tale that tops what they were trying to tell us.

It's all too common isn't it? We have become such an "I" focused world we have almost completely forgotten how to have a genuine conversation with others. We have an "I"Pod, "I"Pad, "I"Touch, or "I" anything and everything designed to please ourselves.

Now, I am generalizing, of course, because I do know some people who are extremely attentive listeners and keep discussions going based on good, quality questions that they ask, going deeper into what is happening in the exchange instead of trying to outdo or one-up the other person.

There is a story that Dr. Denis Waitley shares in his program "The Psychology of Winning" where he talks about a party that he and his wife had hosted. He is one of those extremely attentive listeners and great conversationalists. In his story, he lamented that after the party he felt as if he didn't do enough talking, he did too much listening and asking questions. But as he took out the trash he overheard his neighbors talking about the party, and they actually commented on how smart and interesting of a guy that Denis was.

Think about that for just a moment. Denis didn't talk about himself, he never mentioned the word "I" or tried to compete in a conversation. All he did was listen and ask terrific questions and they thought he was smart and interesting. What was it that made them feel that way? Well, he made the conversations about other people, he kept his ears open and his focus on the topic of discussion and not himself.

You know the old saying, "God gave us two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that proportion." Meaning we should listen twice as much as we speak. This holds true in any profession and in any of our personal relationships. Doctors listen much more than they talk, how else can they identify health issues and diagnose the problem? Great sales people know that it is really all about qualifying their customers and prospects through questioning and listening before offering a solution. Spouses, parents, friends, and co-workers can all seem smarter and make conversations more interesting and thoughtful by simply practicing the art of listening, asking more "you" centered questions, and avoiding all "I" focused statements.

How about you, do you focus on the other person or do you engage in a battle of verbal ping-pong to make yourself the center of attention? Either way and always I would love to hear all about it at And when we trade an ear for an eye, it will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a resident of Highlands Ranch, the former president of the Zig Ziglar Corporation and the CEO/founder of


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