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Learn and listen

We live in an age of bombast and over-the-top behavior, encouraged in many cases by a fawning fan base that seems to idolize anyone who “puts their money where their mouth is.”

In some cases, it’s good to speak up and express one’s opinion, but I remember what my parents told me a long time ago.

“Listen and you may learn something,” one or both told me at various times, and stubborn as I was — and am still — that lesson has taken time to sink in.

Everyone needs a bit of quiet time at the beginning, middle or end of the day to reflect on things that really matter.

To that end, there’s an art to listening, according to Psychology Today, who deems good listening every bit as important as learning how to express one’s self through speaking.

Psychology Today lists three components of good listening, be respectful, talk less than you listen and challenge assumptions.

Showing respect for the ideas of others makes it more likely for mutual success, and “the key to asking respectful questions doesn’t mean that the questions can’t be tough or pointed,” according to the article.

“The key is asking questions in a manner that will promote as opposed to hinder the free and open flow of communication and idea-generating.”

Author Bernard Ferrari has suggested a variation of the 80/20 rule, which is the other person involved in the conversation should be speaking 80 percent of the time.

He suggests using his 20 percent of the time speaking to ask questions rather than interjecting his own opinion.

Ferrari writes, “ Good listeners seek to understand — and challenge — the assumptions that lie below the surface of every conversation.

Ferrari thinks one of the bedrocks of good listening is that in order to get something out of your conversations and make good decisions, someone must be willing to “challenge long-held and cherished assumptions.”

That is something else that seems to be missing from meaningful conversations today, as people are less inclined to depart from their respective comfort zones.

The more polite among us may not be willing to directly confront someone with a different opinion, thinking they may not get a word in edgewise, or worse, end up in a situation similar to road rage.

Some people naturally are better listeners than others, according to Ferrari, but he argues if everyone can recognize their individual strengths in terms of listening, we can all be better decision-makers.

A lot of what Ferrari suggests is simply common sense, listen more and talk less, and perhaps we can accomplish more.