Vail Daily column: Trading an ear for an ‘I’ |

Vail Daily column: Trading an ear for an ‘I’

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who continually tries to compete at everything from vacations to headaches and from sports to life experiences? You know what I mean — if there is a chance to talk about themselves, they will.

But let me ask you this: How often have we been guilty of that ourselves? When someone tells us about their children, do we immediately chime in with a similar story about our own children? Maybe even a competing tale that tops what they were trying to tell us.

It’s all too common isn’t it? We have become such an “I” focused world that we have almost completely forgotten how to have a genuine conversation with others. We have IPods, IPads, IPhones and other “I” devices that are designed to please us.

Now I am generalizing, of course, because I do know some people who are extremely attentive listeners and keep discussions going based on good, quality questions that they ask, going deeper into what is happening in the exchange instead of trying to out do or one up the other person.

There is a story that Denis Waitley shares in his program, “The Psychology of Winning,” where he talks about a party that he and his wife hosted. He is one of those extremely attentive listeners and great conversationalists. In his story, he lamented that after the party he felt as if he didn’t do enough talking; he did too much listening and asking questions. But as he took out the trash, he overheard his neighbors talking about the party, and they actually commented on how smart and interesting of a guy that Denis was.

Think about that for just a moment. Denis didn’t talk about himself, he never mentioned the word “I” or tried to compete in a conversation. All he did was listen and ask terrific questions and they thought he was smart and interesting. What was it that made them feel that way? Well, he made the conversations about other people, he kept his ears open and his focus on the topic of discussion and not himself.


You know the old saying, “God gave us two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that proportion.” That means that we should listen twice as much as we speak. This holds true in any profession and in any of our personal relationships. Doctors listen much more than they talk — how else can they identify health issues and diagnose the problem?

Great sales people know that it is really all about qualifying their customers and prospects through questioning and listening before offering a solution. Spouses, parents, friends and coworkers can all seem smarter and make conversations more interesting and thoughtful by simply practicing the art of listening, asking more “you” centered questions and avoiding all “I” focused statements.

How about you? Do you focus on the other person or do you engage in a battle of verbal pingpong to make yourself the center of attention? Either way, I would love to hear all about it at And when we trade an “I” for an ear, it will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach, motivational speaker and CEO of He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.

Support Local Journalism