My mom used to say God gave you two ears and only one mouth because He wanted you to listen twice as much as you talk.
As a professional communicator, it’s easy to forget that advice. But Mom was right (she usually is).
That’s why the secret weapon at getting better as a communicator has nothing to do with talking and everything to do with listening.
Here are four people every communicator, public speaker or preacher should listen to:
1. Listen to others. There are lots of fantastic communicators in the world, and it’s prideful to think you can’t learn from them. Pick three to five people you trust and respect and create a well-balanced diet of communication coaching. Listen to what they are saying but listen to how they are saying it. Why three to five? Because if you just listen to one person all the time you will sound like a clone. And if you’re listening to dozens and dozens, you should probably get to work.
2. Listen to comedians. These are people who charge top dollar and keep a crowd engaged for more than an hour. Comedians are masters of their material and they know how to own a room. While they have a much different end goal, you can learn a lot from listening to them.
3. Listen to yourself. If you’re not in the habit of listening to your own messages, commit to do it for the next five messages you preach. Force yourself to do it, because it’s not really fun. Listen to how fast you talk and the tone of your voice. Are people laughing at your jokes? Do you sound too angry or too excited? Listen to a recent message with a critical ear and work on getting better.
4. Listen to the listeners. Most people don’t get better at things without honest feedback, yet preachers rarely seek out helpful feedback. Find a few people who will give you honest and specific feedback on your messages. You will have to help them, and you’ll have to work hard to listen. But once you create a good environment, you’ll have a brilliant source for improvement.