The Secret Weapon of Listening

I heard that the reason that we have two ears and one tongue is that we are required to listen twice as much as we speak. Yet, how often do we tend to talk over the other person in a conversation? The thing is, when we are talking, our listening diminishes and worse still, our understanding of what is being said by the other person is lost. So, we can take part in a long conversation and understand very little of it. Now, consider this scenario with your boy who is telling you something. You see, what the boy may say might not seem very important to you, but, to him, it is of the uttermost importance. When we talk over our boys or dismiss what they have to say, we crush them. That’s why many boys do not talk.

boy and parent

Because the odds are so much against our boys, they are often in search of someone who will give them a listening ear and for the most part, finding that someone is often a futile adventure. It is in the home that a boy first tries to find someone who would listen and when he is unable to find such a person, it is a tremendously discouraging reality that he faces. For, seldom, will he find someone outside the home that will provide the comfort, assurance, love, interest, and candor that he needs to share his heart. Any boy who is in this dilemma of loneliness will suppress his feelings; the questions that he has will increase and dealing with life will become something beyond his capability. To understand this is to understand the reason for a boy’s irrationality, anger, frustration, unwillingness to comply with authority, and many other defaulting actions.

I realized from a very early age that I seemed to have an affinity to listen to the plight of other people. And over the years, in my field as an educator, I purposed to be a support for those who could easily be misunderstood or left to the wiles of the lack of knowledge. I truly believe, that, without knowledge, there could be much danger. Hence, I purposely devoted myself to use the secret weapon of listening. I used this as a teacher and as an administrator. I discovered that people often do not want you to solve their problem. Rather, they often would like you to listen to what they have to say. It is as if all they want to do is to get what is bothering them off their proverbial chest. So, a good strategy to adopt may be to listen more and talk less.


As a principal of a school in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, one of my secretaries asked me how it was that angry parents who came to see me about a school issue left my office smiling. This secretary had seen other principals who had difficulty with other parents and it was puzzling to her that I was able to order peace to stormy situations. The solution was not in anything that I said. The solution was my ears; I listened to them. As a matter of fact, many parents told of that observation: Mr. E. you listen to us. To me, listening was key and I never hesitated to use the key. Furthermore, I was very skillful in pulling down barriers between parents and me. As a rule, I would not sit in my big chair, behind my big desk as thought I was some big person; someone who lauded it over them. I purposely sat in a chair next to them and began my conversation by telling them that I wanted to listen to what they had to say. In the end, the conversation will end amicably and parents often left with the sense that they were heard.

Listening is the secret weapon that can get to the root of many problems, especially those problems that boys have. I firmly believe that many boys do not talk to parents because they do not see them as confidants. They often see them as judges and correctional officers. Boys have question, they have struggles, and the odds are against them. We cannot afford to increase the odds by not giving them our ears. They want to be heard, so, when they speak, you must not speak; you must listen.

That’s all for today, until next time.

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