Tony Allen: And finally ... Did I really say that?

Oct 08 | 2020

The Japanese have a most instructive axiom which states the following: You have one mouth and two ears; speak once, listen twice!

Tony AllenHow many times in your life have you wished that you had paid more attention to this simple piece of advice?

The political graveyard is littered with politicians who have unsuccessfully crossed this minefield. You know when they make a reply to a question which is obviously badly thought through? Then you say to yourself in that sing-song voice reserved for these occasions: “He’s going to regret that!” and next you see a look upon the politician’s face that betrays the same feeling as they slowly realise the implications of what they’ve just said; but perhaps remorsefully accompanied by a silent expletive.

“Why the hell did I say that?” is an oft repeated cry - normally to oneself. I’ve done it many times: “Whatever possessed me to make that promise?” “I shouldn’t have said that.” “I didn’t realise that you were pregnant,” “I’M NOT!”. “Oh dearie me!”

I’m sure that you get the picture, and when this process is accompanied by a slowly declining memory brought about by Anno Domini, then life can become a relative obstacle course.

It’s probably correct to say that we really don’t listen enough and as a result tend to miss too much. I’ve had situations in the past when, during perhaps a quite contentious discussion, I’ve finally conceded that the other protagonist’s point is correct and have said so accordingly. They then carry on making their case until I remind them that I had agreed with them some time ago and that they were simply just not listening.

This happens a lot in selling when, because we are too occupied with what we are saying, we miss important buying signals and as a result end up losing the sale. The potential customer was giving us clues but we chose not to listen. Bad sales people dominate the conversation, good sales people dominate the listening!

“Not me!” I hear you say. But we all suffer from this affliction on occasions, some more than others perhaps, but even the wise old owl gets it wrong sometimes.

Of course there is one major exception here, because if you talk to somebody about themselves then they will be inclined to listen for ages. I’m sure that you’ve had the situation where, for example, you’ve been sitting next to a stranger at a function and at the end of the evening you know almost everything there is to know about them, but they probably know nothing about you. That notable business guru, Dale Carnegie, once portrayed a situation where he’d been sitting next to somebody who, he was told, later described him as being a very good conversationalist. In fact he’d spent the whole evening saying very little. He was simply just applying the extreme power of listening.

Have a read of Stevie Smith’s emotional poem, ‘Not Waving but Drowning’, which sums up this sentiment in a much more concise way than ever I could. It demonstrates so precisely how much of life we can ignore through our own introspection.

You’re probably wondering how this whole subject matter came about? Well a situation occurred the other day that made me stop and think; I’ll tell you about it in a minute.

Of course this whole topic becomes more pertinent where the male/female relationship is involved, for us males are often accused of not listening.

Female: You never listen to anything I say.
Male: Just gone six o’clock!

Anyway, back to the incident that occurred the other day. Well, Mrs A and I were having a discussion about an appointment that she had to attend later that day and whether I would be able to pick her up in the car as it looked as if it was likely to rain. Naturally I agreed and in due course duly arrived, and at the correct time - which I must confess I was really proud of. As she got in the car I observantly remarked upon how nice her hair looked and what a good job the hairdresser had made of it. “Thank you for that,” she replied with a faint hint of acerbity in her voice “but, as I told you earlier, I’ve just been to have a tooth filled at the dentist!”

I tried to make some sort of a lame excuse which I must confess was not well accepted, and justifiably so. ‘Old dogs and new tricks’ I know, but I cannot stress enough the value of the sentiments contained within this piece of Japanese wisdom. Whichever way you look at it, this is very sound advice, so thank goodness we’ve got two eyes!