Why You Should Spend Less Time Talking

It’s often been said people won’t care what you have to say until they know how much you care. While a short quote, this little statement speaks volumes to the power of feeling cared for.

I believe one of the best ways we can show others we care is by talking less.

Is it time to shut your mouth?

Image by David Geohring

But how can this be? Can we really show others we care when we zip our lips?

In a recent Success Magazine article, Adam Sher, CEO of Ryan Seacrest Productions, said this about Ryan:

Ryan listens to what people are saying and has an uncanny ability to understand where they’re coming from and what they really want. In meetings, he spends much more time listening and taking notes than he does talking.

From the same article, Larry King says this about Seacrest:

Ryan is a wonderful interviewer. He knows how to listen. He doesn’t interject himself; he knows that the show and the guest are more important than him…

When we break this down and look at these statements, we can see Seacrest has been able to show others he cares by talking less. When he’s able to shut his mouth and listen, he’s able to understand the issues those around him are facing.

He’s also able to see issues where others may overlook them. This is because he’s acutely aware to what’s being said rather than thinking of the next words to come out of his mouth.

I think this is a principle we need to begin applying to our leadership. We need to learn to talk less, listen more.

For when we do, we show others that we’re aware of their emotions and are interested in what’s happening in their lives.

Try these 3 tips to more effective listening:

Tip 1: Adopt a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 rule for talking – When engaged in conversations, try to talk less than the other person. Allow them to talk two or three times more often than you’re talking.

They’re share aspects of their life you would never have heard if you were trying to get the next word in.

Remember, people love to be heard. Being heard makes them feel special. Make them feel special by listening.

Tip 2: Ask interesting questions – Sometimes it’s hard for us to keep quiet while the other person is talking. But it’s crucial to allowing them to speak while you listen. This is why asking interesting questions will help you talk less.

Ask probing questions so the other person is able to share their life experiences or great adventures. Ask questions that are interesting to that person and yourself.

If you’re hearing an exciting story, you’ll be less likely to pipe in and interrupt.

Tip 3: Paint a picture in your mind – This goes along with tip 2 but it’s separate. When listening, try to paint a picture in your mind of the events being described.

Let the images roll through your mind and associate these images with the words being said. Being able to visualize the spoken word helps you retain what you’ve heard.

Effective listening requires you to put your concerns aside. You must be willing to engage with the person speaking and allow them to say what needs to be said.

In doing so, you can win a person over. You’ll show them they’re valuable and you’re willing to give your time to hear their story.

This is why we need to spend less time talking.

Question: Do you agree or disagree? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. (Don’t worry if you disagree, I’d love to hear another perspective and gain more insight on the subject)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Wan Muhammad Zulfikri Bin Wan

    Hmm…a recent idea of mine about listening goes along the line of “I know everything about myself so why should I talk about myself too much? Listening is much better because you are learning something new.”

    But I think your second point – Adopt a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 rule for talking – is a more balanced approach and it can help everyone to be a better listener.

    Thanks for the post Joe.

    • My pleasure Wan. I hope it sparked some new ideas for your life!

      • When I reread my comment the technique of the 2-to-1 is actually the first point in your post.

        Sorry about that Joe. 😀

  • It is amazing what others will think of you when you listen more. People that are very “likable” are often very good listeners. This also can help if you are not particularly confident in conversational skills – ask others about what they are passionate about – we all want to be heard, so give others the gift being able to share something important to them by offering the invitation!

  • rcsinclair952

    Boy, I am about to show my age.

    I read an article, decades ago, about Ed Sullivan. All he ever used to do on his famous tv show (“really big shoe”) was introduce the acts. The show was all about the great acts of the time. Elvis, the Beatles, Motown, George Carlin, etc.

    He had no on stage talent except to know great talent. In fact, he had negative stage presence. He was the guy that comedians made fun of.

    He highlighted the acts without getting in the way.

    But on Monday morning, you would ask “Did you see Ed Sullivan last night?”

    • That’s so cool Bob. Funny how different people at different times see the same thing in a different light.

  • Joe – this is absolutely fantastic! One of the best post I’ve read. I wrote about this last year quoting Winston Churchill when he said, “it takes courage to sit down and listen.” This was such a refreshing reminder when all I seem to want to do right now is talk. This reminded me of how much I need to be a listener first.


  • You wrote how it’s important to remain quiet when the other person is speaking. I would add to this quieting your inner voice while the other person is speaking. Cease thinking about your response as the other person is speaking.

    Listening is a skill many of us could use some improvement with 🙂

    • Good addition Bill. Sometimes we can be quiet yet have an inner dialogue going on.

  • kentsanders

    Great insights, Joe. Listening is a hugely underrated skill. I think back to when I was a kid and watched the master, Johnny Carson. He was such a great interviewer because he would make the guest the star. Some of the talk show hosts now don’t know when to stop talking. 🙂

    • Kent, I don’t know if you seen Bob’s comment but a similar thing happened with Ed Sullivan.

      • kentsanders

        I sure did – it’s actually what made me think if Carson. 🙂 I love the metaphor of a blogger/podcaster/leader as someone is a great “introducer.” I really want to be good at introducing my audience to awesome people.

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  • Not long back, Joe, I read a quote about listening- about how most people “listen” with the intent to respond, not to understand… (or something like that). When I read that, it changed (or began to) how I “listen”. I actually have to work really hard at it- -it isn’t an easy habit to break.. But it has already made a huge difference in my own life- both personally and professionally.

    • Amber-Lee, good job on recognizing this issue and taking action towards correcting the intent to respond problem. When we do that, it doesn’t give people our full attention.

      What kind of results have you seen from tweaking this and listening to understand?

  • Judith Morgan

    Loved this piece, Joe. Thanks for the reminder. I am a listener for a living and I find it peaceful and relaxing and – for my clients – it is often unique. You’ve inspired me today. Judith x

    • Awesome Judith. What do you do that requires you to listen?

      • Judith Morgan

        I am a business coach and have been now for more than a decade. All my clients are real human beings as well as business owners and often a good listening to is very useful for them – and unique in that who else does that for them? Good listening is about holding the space for the entrepreneur to do some really good thinking and then asking the next curious question based on their response. Sometimes its about listening for what they don’t say, or listening to what their breathing tells me. Also my listening skills have stood me in good stead in real life such as when my Mother was dying and that was what she most needed from me. Since I am a chatterbox in real life this is a great and good daily challenge for me and one which I relish. Thanks for asking, Joe.

  • Tandy Elisala

    Love this article. Fantastic reinforcement about listening as a key skill.

  • You hit the nail on the head, Joe.

    It is almost paradoxical. We believe that we need to influence others by talking (which is true if influence is to occur via conversation). But if you talk first and talk extensively, you undermine your ability to influence because you haven’t built connection and trust.

    Thanks for this great reminder, it was timely for me.

    • Honestly, I think influence can happen even without talking. There are people who are such great listeners that they inspire people to action. Crazy world, huh?

  • From James 1…”Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

    • Excellent scripture that fits this post!

      • It’s a verse I’ve had to come back to again and again.

  • My personality is introverted so I tend to listen more than I talk. I’ve learned that about my self and make it a goal to ask good questions during a conversation. Allowing the person to share about themselves. Great post!

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  • Andleeb

    hi joseph

    its really hard to listen sometimes , and i always try to interrupt , anyone else speaking … But its really hard , as normally even , unintentionally or unwillingly i do interrupt.
    It will be great if you can give some tips as well how to be quite , and stop or control our self in such situation . I have noticed many times that when one interrupts , then the track of discussion also changes .
    It will be great if you can share your thoughts about , How to keep quite ? I got here from Linkedin
    I will be happy if you will check this :

    • Andleeb

      Sorry typing mistake ,……I try not to interrupt , but i do , unfortunately 🙁

    • Welcome Andleeb! Glad you were able to find me through LinkedIn.

      You’re right, keeping quiet can be a difficult thing to do. We want to be heard and interrupting is an easy way to do that. One thing to try would be to think about how you would feel. Place yourself in the other person’s shoes. Treat them how you would like to be treated.

      • Andleeb

        that’s really a good advise

        • Thanks. If there’s anything else you need help with, I’m here for you.