Asked why he was so miserly with words, a wise man replied, “The Creator of the world has given man two ears, but just one tongue. This is so that we may listen more than we speak.” Listening more, we increase our knowledge, have a better understanding of the other person’s viewpoint, prepare what we wish to say, and encourage in the speaker a greater receptivity to what we wish to say when finally it is our turn to hold forth.
When we speak, it is not generally sufficient just to utter the truth. We have to be able to talk persuasively if our listeners are to be convinced. This is where our having listened carefully is an advantage. We get to know in advance what misapprehensions we have to sweep aside, what illusions we have to dispel, and what emotional barriers we have to break down.
If we speak without ever listening to others, we shall always find ourselves in a weak, uncertain, and ill-informed position. Sometimes we voice opinions that are not well supported by facts. We can save ourselves embarrassment by first hearing the subject discussed from different angles by different speakers. The propensity to talk too much is often a sign of wanting to sing one’s own praises than of getting to the matter and shows a lack of seriousness towards others.
The practice of listening more than speaking is not just the external expression of one isolated personality trait; rather, it reflects a whole state of mind. Indicative of sincerity and humility, it is the essence of a fine character.