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Stop Talking and Listen

It is pretty rare that someone renders me speechless. Whether in a class discussion or a personal conversation, I always have something to say. It doesn’t matter if the topic is something I consider myself knowledgeable about or if it is a news article I haven’t read—you can count on me to contribute.

Maybe I have an unreasonable level of self-confidence.

Maybe my family told me I “could do anything” one too many times.

Maybe I just talk too much.

Whatever the case, I often have to remind myself to stop talking.

The thing about learning is, I already know everything that’s in my
head.
What I don’t know is what other people are thinking.

This simple thought about life and leadership is captured by Iron Chef Mario Batali, who says that:

“One of the most important leadership lessons is realizing you’re not the most important or the most intelligent person in the room at all times.” – Mario Batali

Other people know a lot. People who I have class with, people who you serve in student organizations with—they have grown up in different homes, read different books, and made different friends than you and me. And because of that, they know things that we don’t know. You know things that I don’t know.

It’s a pretty simple concept, but the implications are huge. If you are ever going to learn, eventually you have to stop talking and listen.

I know that it’s hard for me, so it might be hard for you too. Here are two concrete ways to exercise your listening muscle and learn from others:

  1. After speaking up twice in one situation, self-impose a time limit before you will share again.
  2. The next time you are in a meeting ask someone who hasn’t shared yet to give their input
  3. After you share an idea, ask someone to contradict you.

For more from Mario Batali on leadership, read his 2012 interview with the New York Times.

~ Brandie Van Order




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