Angel and I receive dozens of emails every week from new course students who generally want to know how to thrive in life, love and business. They share their personal stories with us and then ask questions like:
- How can I attract more positive opportunities into my life?
- What can I do to improve my relationship with my husband/wife?
- How can I advance my career/business?
Obviously, there are no one-size-fits-all answers to questions like these, because each person who asks them has a unique life situation. There is, however, one piece of advice Angel and I universally share with these students regardless of their situation – and we honestly believe it’s the greatest secret to success in all walks of life.
Want to know the secret?
It’s time for a quick true story…
In the early Spring of 1974, the now world-renowned photographer Stephen Wilkes was a 16-year-old reporter and cameraman for his high school’s television station. His best friend was also a reporter for the station, and together they came up with the wild idea of interviewing some of the great news anchors and broadcast journalists of the era. So they wrote personalized, hand-written letters to dozens of them…
In an amazing twist of fate, nobody replied but perhaps the greatest news anchor and broadcast journalist of them all: Walter Cronkite, who graciously offered to spend a full hour with the boys. Stephen and his friend understood that this would be the most important reporting event of their lives, and so they prepared carefully for it.
They gathered dozens of thoughtfully crafted questions and rehearsed the questions over and over again. When the day of the interview arrived, they were ready. They sat with Mr. Cronkite and asked him one question after the next… meticulously checking off each question on their notepad. And Mr. Cronkite was incredibly thorough and patient with his answers for the entire hour.
Then, as they were wrapping things up, he said, “Boys, I’d like to ask you both an important question: Do you know what makes a great interview?”
Stephen and his friend were caught off-guard, so they quickly began shuffling through their notepad, which didn’t provide an obvious answer. Mr. Cronkite smiled and quickly rescued them, explaining: “Being a good listener, boys. That’s what truly makes a great interview. Being a good listener will always lead you to the next best question.”
The boys looked up at the legendary anchorman and suddenly realized they had spent their whole hour robotically asking one scripted question after the next… but not truly listening or responding to a single answer. And if they had listened, they could have allowed Mr. Cronkite’s answers to guide their questions, and guide them to a far more genuine and meaningful hour together.
REMEMBER (the secret):
Walter Cronkite was exceptionally proficient – a master – at his craft because he never pretended to have all the answers, and thus he didn’t assume he knew how everyone he interviewed would answer him. During his one-hour interview with Stephen and his friend, he taught them that listening is a powerful art. It involves being fully present and hearing what people are saying, first and foremost, and then adjusting our words and actions in response to the stories, ideas and meaning we hear.
When we take Walter Cronkite’s advice and master the art of listening, it will inevitably open doors for us that we never even knew existed. This one kind gesture can literally change our lives. For there’s nothing more life-changing in the long run than the relationships we nurture with those around us, and there’s no gesture more appreciated than the willingness to truly hear a person out.
In order to thrive – in life, love and business – we have to know what people need, which only happens when we take the time to mindfully open our ears. (Angel and I build mindful communication rituals with our students in the “Love and Relationships” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
Please leave a comment below and let us know:
How has the art of listening (or forgetting to listen) affected your life and relationships?
Anything else to share?
We would love to hear from YOU. 🙂
Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.
Photo by: Bruno Abarca
Your emails and teachings never cease to keep me on track.
I totally agree with your point here. I never get tired of my wife’s willingness to pause and intently listen to my stories and ideas. Her mindful silence and focused listening makes me smile inside every single time, and she’s been doing it for 29 amazing years.
And yes, of course, I return the favor.
Thanks for another insightful, thoughtful read.
Marc Chernoff says
That’s wonderful, Devon! 🙂
Joanna L. says
Marc, this reinforces what I’ve rediscovered through your course and coaching — listening does indeed open doors. And one of the most amazing doors it opens is when it helps us be present enough to notice the love and kindness surrounding us…
I’ve learned to listen (and watch) for subtle “I love you’s” that make my world richer. For example…
– A neighborhood family recently invited me over for dinner & a movie when my family was out of town.
– A friend asked “How are you?” I replied, “I’m terrific!” she said, “I think you’re terrific too.”
– I asked an elderly man in line at the bakery about a muffin I’d never tried, he bought me one and said, “Tell me how it is.”
People say “I love you” and convey incredible kindness in many different ways”. Be listening… extra carefully. 🙂
Magnificent comment Joanna
These are really sweet 🙂 restores faith in humanity when sometimes we just see so much awful. But perhaps it’s cause exactly that we aren’t listening! 🙂
Jennifer A. says
I love this! 🙂
Marc Chernoff says
I’m so happy our course and coaching has had a positive impact on you. There’s no question that your perspective is beautiful! Thank you for sharing, Joanna.
Another excellent story and message!
Also remember, active listening is also important in many situations — people are much more likely to respond positively when their ideas and feelings are being not only listened to, but acted upon as well.
Marc Chernoff says
I have several friends who can talk for 45 minutes straight about themselves before finally asking about me and then interrupting my answer to say more about themselves. It used to bother me, but now I figure they just need someone to listen. I’m cool with that. .
As long as it is positive, a lot of self-centered people can be negative and tend to drag others down with them. Just keep in mind, friendship is an effort put forth from both parties involved.
Amit Dhiman says
Hi Marc & Angel.
I am a frequent reader of you blog and posts of FB. These were really very useful and very very helpful for me since i have started. But If you permit me to ask something about my story via email. Please let me know if you are interested then only i will ask you, because i don’t want to waste your precious time at all.
With Deep Gratitude
Marc Chernoff says
I’ll be in touch via email.
Such awesome advice! Thanks for sharing.
I listen all the time. It’s the “active” listening that is the most difficult for me. Great reminder, wonderful article.
Quintunya Chapman says
I can never get enough of these emails. I have noticed that it is annoying when I am talking to someone and I can tell when they are not attentively listening to me. From this, I have learned that it is more important to listen to others because I would hate for someone to feel the way I do when someone is not focused on what I am saying.
Hey, I have suggested this once and I will do it again.. Why don’t you guys make an app of this website? Would be amazing to receive updates from you right in the morning. 🙂
Marc Chernoff says
Thank you for the suggestion. This is really something we need to research. We would need to find the right developer.
Right now, however, we are on the Apple News app… if that helps.
Great article and story. Thanks. I am aware that i interrupt too much in conversation…too anxious to have my say…which probably means I need to listen more intently!
I am curious. When I read your articles, I frequently find myself saying, “I do that!”. And a number of the responses given here make me believe that others think the same way. But I find myself wishing others would do likewise with me. I listen and encourage and empathize with my family and my friends. Even strangers that seem to just need someone to talk to. But I seem to be invisible to these people. They think I am sturdy, capable and loving and don’t have a care in the world. They don’t seem to be interested in the high points in my life either. Am I just be self-centered to feel this way? Is it wrong to want people to listen to me and get to know me, too?
I relate to this! Maybe it just points out that most people DON”T listen. So when we make the effort to listen we are more aware that we are not getting the same from others……
Sarah pearson says
Same here but great article
Thank for this great reminder. I always practiced the art of not listening.. I believe this became a habit of mine at a very young age. Parents, bosses, people in general would be reprimanding me or even giving advice, I would nod, lo
ok at them and then walk away saying I didn’t hear a word they said. When I started out patient for alcohol abuse I took a group on listening skills and I was amazed at how I new nothing about listening. Over the course off 10 + months I started to develop my listening skills. This was very hard for me to develop. Now after a year and a half later, I have developed the skill of listening, and can easily fall back into my non listening skills. I have to practice every day the skill of listening and now I have had people say to me that I am a great listener. I am ever so grateful to my outpatient facility for helping develop my life skills and showing me the way to sobriety.
Ruth Shull says
A good friend gave me great advice…it came from her husband. Practice the fine art of closing your mouth. Which seemed a bit harsh at first. She really never expounded and we conversed on about other things. Hum?
And I haven’t been able to get the comment out of my mind. It has served me well. In a society of instant feedback, drama, opinion…how respectful to just share space with someone; especially those we love. That no comment can be as if not more supporting and loving than a knee jerk response to simply fill the silence.
Thank you so much for every positive and enriching thought you’ve given us! r
Wow, great article. As always so very insightful and thought provoking. Thank you!
Being listened to is so much like being loved that most people can’t tell the difference.
Thanks for this encouragement for people to listen. I’m a question asker and listener. People I meet and talk with seem starved for someone to ‘hear’ them, and acknowledge them. Just wanting to be known. I also find, many times, they are not so interested in knowing others, or listening to other people’s stories. It’s so much fun though when the listening and question asking is balanced over a cup of coffee…my favorite people.
I couldn’t agree more! Sharing time and chatting with people over a cup of coffee can be soothing to our soul. But truly, there are just a few that let the conversation ebb and flow between the two. Active listening = care and affirmation of being heard. ? Cheers!
Great message as always, thank you for reminding us to be a good listener & be totally present. This reminding me of the phrase ” I hear you”
David Rapp says
At work, I am on a dozen conference calls a week. I host most of them. Listening is the best skill I have developed, and its still a work in progress. If people ask me what I do when I meet with new customers, like I am next week, I tell them I try to stay in a 4:1 ratio with them. 4:1 means that I use both ears and both eyes vs. 1 mouth.
I also know I am a poor public listener. I tend to tune out, think about other stuff in my head, rather than pay attention. Its also funny that we use the phrase “pay attention” , because we must sacrifice the time it takes to receive a message versus declare our own message.
Scott Grizzle says
Thanks for the great post! As a pastor, I’ve learned that listening to others moves me from my agenda to theirs. I’m often focused on my agenda when I’m engaged with others. However, when I focus on the other person and listen to them, I can meet them where they are in life. In doing so, I find that serving others makes my life a success.
I am a teacher, and I find it very easy to sit and listen to our youth. I can give them my all, taking in not only what they are saying but cues behind some of what they say that guide me to ask more deep questions. Although, I find it hard to use that same practice with family, I feel that I disconnect, now I can see that maybe listening in the same manner would better improve my relationships with my family.
Rachael Paterson says
One of my biggest challenges is staying present. I have taught myself the exact opposite. Multi Tasking for me was the ultimate way to work and behave. Though doing that may have it’s place…for me it became a habit and I have to re-learn and re-remind myself that I am missing so much by being in to many directions at once.
This is a timeless truth you’ve presented in this post and the story makes it even sweeter and more memorable. Thank you for the reminder and the inspiration.
I have to agree, listening is the key.
If you want to improve every aspect of your life, it is good to start listen more. Many time we try to do many things at once; we believe in multi-tasking (which to me doesn’t work) and thus miss very important information someone is trying to convey to us. If more often we take the time to sit down and give the other person our undivided attention, we will surely better our love relationship, career, family ties etc.
I’m just loving the articles and also the feedback. True listening , giving your full attention is a real skill!!! I also agree with the above comments of multi skilling hasn’t help my attention span but well worth working on. Thank you for an interesting blog
Judy Riley says
The simple act of truly listening was the catalyst for my fledgling business thirty two years ago. I knew nothing about the legal field and was asked to gather information about civil jury verdicts in my area. At first, the roadblocks were tall and wide but through persistence and listening carefully to understand what is needed, the barriers began to shrink. My tools were a telephone and an electric typewriter…so I had to listen intently, took profuse notes, asked quality questions and typed fast. I call it my “horse and buggy story”. Some attorneys were gruff and impatient. Others were helpful and kind. They taught me what was important to them, what they wanted to know about the civil cases and why they needed this information. Over three decades, I nurtured the business, earned a good reputation and made many friends…most of whom I’ve never met face to face, only know them from conversations that included questions about their families, interests, vacations as well as their business needs. Sincere, focused listening is the foundation of all relationships…professional and personal.
James Thomas says
Interesting read. Thank you.
Marc Chernoff says
Sorry I didn’t get a chance to jump in here are read your comments sooner… But I just wanted to let you all know that Angel and I just read each and every comment, and we’re thankful for your willingness to share with us. 🙂
“art of listening”!
I think I am a good listener already. But only listening what my self-centered friends saying sometimes has bothered me.
If I have the “art of listening” view, then I may overcome my issue.
Great and beautiful art can make people calm and happy.
I want to brush up my listening art more. Thank you for my new view! I love your blog.
I have been a social worker for over 20 years, 11 of those years spent with hospice patients and families. If I hadn’t learned the art of listening early on, I would have missed some of the greatest stories ever told. Walter Kronkite was an amazing man! Thank you for sharing this today.