by Celeste Headlee, radio host, NAU alumna and expert listener

Celeste Headlee

NAU alumna Celeste Headlee has made a career of listening. Her recently published Ted Talk is approaching 2 million views.

March is International Listening Month and alumna Celeste Headlee shares her tips for listening, one of the most important skills a person can develop.

Here are excerpts from her Ted Talk:

Listen. I cannot tell you how many really important people have said that listening is perhaps the most, the number one most important skill that you could develop. Buddha said, and I’m paraphrasing, “If your mouth is open, you’re not learning.” And Calvin Coolidge said, “No man ever listened his way out of a job.”

Why do we not listen to each other? Number one, we’d rather talk. When I’m talking, I’m in control. I don’t have to hear anything I’m not interested in. I’m the center of attention. I can bolster my own identity. But there’s another reason: We get distracted. The average person talks at about 225 word per minute, but we can listen at up to 500 words per minute. So our minds are filling in those other 275 words. And look, I know, it takes effort and energy to actually pay attention to someone, but if you can’t do that, you’re not in a conversation. You’re just two people shouting out barely related sentences in the same place.

You have to listen to one another. Stephen Covey said it very beautifully. He said, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply.”

Editor’s note: Headlee earned an undergraduate degree from NAU in 1995.