TED is my new favorite website these days.  I was first introduced to TED through a local weekly meetup in Midtown Sacramento called TED Talk Tuedays….and this first talk affected me immediately.

There can be many lessons to be had in the 17 minute talk, but I came away with one idea  that I believe can be beneficial to anyone’s life if applied.

John Francis witnessed two oil tankers collide in the San Francisco Bay in 1971 which motivated him to not drive or ride in any motorized vehicle.  So he walked everywhere, literally.  Due to people questioning his actions, he constantly found becoming involved in arguments.  To avoid these disputes, he decided to try an experiment, and spend one day without talking.  He noticed a profound change in his lifestyle….

John found himself actually listening to people.  He realized that without talking, he would not think of what he was going to say next in response, and he could fully 100 percent listen to people.  He also realized that he was learning again, thanks to this new habit of fully listening.

Fast forward through the video and John’s teaching a class at the University of Montana, with absolutely no talking.  His class becomes one of the most popular classes on campus as it was virtually all discussion by the students.   These discusssions would start with just a gesture.  John observed that by just starting discussions with gestures and letting the students depict what he meant and discuss what they thought, he was learning more form his students then he had during his studies.  John came to the conclusion that….

“If you aren’t learning, you are probably not teaching very well…’

I wish I could experience this more often from my classes in college today.  I do have a few professors that understand this idea and successfully implement it in class.  I love those classes.  But there are a majority of professors that communicate dried out material from text or just communicate any random brain farts they have at the moment.   The big reason why John’s class was so successful was because of listening.

Such a simple concept but in reality, in today’s mediated world, is almost impossible for most people.

The speech is concluded with the following statement….

“We are the environment and how we treat each other is how we treat the environment.”

During the 17 years he was voluntarily silent, John realized that he treated people better.  He would fully listen with an open mind.  His mind was not busy formulating his next rebuttal or calculating his prejudices into his response.  His mind was clear and open.  And when your mind is comletely open, you tend to offer more respect, become more aware, and actually be ‘present’. Oh yeah, and actually learn.

We all have hundreds examples of people blowing us off while trying to communicate an idea or having the feeling of not being understood…..daily.  And most importantly, you are most likely exhibiting the same exact behavior to others.

Remember, people tend to mirror back the reality of who you are.  So control the one thing you can control in life; your actions.  And try this concept out for a day, like John did.  You dont have to completely not talk, but atleast listen 80% or 90%, and see if that affects your day to day experiences.  Before you are ready to pounce back with your pre calculated rebuttal, stop and ask why, explore their reasoning; Empty their tanks .  I gurantee you that one you exhaust their thoughts, they’ll be more open to yours.  You just might learn something that will affect your lifestyle too.

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