Yes, I know, you know! We all know from kindergarten that we should listen before we talk; this is why we have two ears and only one mouth .
You know that if you want to be listened to you must listen in your turn. But it is difficult to do it. For me, it is against my temper, for other people it is simply neglected or forgotten or considered unimportant. People are at least as important as facts.
Something is needed to revive this weary wisdom.
You are competent, you saw it all many times, it is your trade, you think with reason that you know exactly what is the illness and what the cure, you know what to do. You know what you do. You walk in and grasp the problem and the solution immediately if you did not know it even in advance. The reasonable thing for these ignorant people who know that you are the specialist – and even pay you for it – would be to keep quiet and listen and try to do as you say. But no, they do not listen, they interrupt with their nonsense and even push back, voting truth by majority. I lived this irritating drama of the counsellor so many times that I understood at last the need to invent this simple device, THE SMALL WHEEL, an artifice that keeps alive in my mind the way to build up credibility and to do things by listening. If you turn it into a habit, you will be paid attention when you give advice.
You actually need to listen professionally if you want to change people’s mind, because you can only change it starting from where they are. For this, you need to find out where they are, what they know already, what they are prepared to understand and what they are ripe to accept. Without that you are an alien, a cold stranger, shooting in the dark or boring everyone with things well known.
Here is how I devised to do it, which made my life easier and helped me to do what I wanted to do:
I split, mentally, the time available, or each unit of time, into three imaginary steps and I complete the work of each step. Listening is not natural and by itself, it is work, part of my work, and a service I give.
The Small Wheel is a rite of listening.
The first “third” of the time available, or of each “round” of discussion, a sizeable amount of time, I keep silent and listen. I do not speak at all but I give all the signs of attention and interest; eye contact, posture, where I sit, written notes taken or written up, all counts and proves that I do listen. If I am asked why I am silent I explain that I must listen first to keep an open mind and learn the reality here as no two situations are ever exactly the same.
In fact, the effect of listening pointedly is that after a while you are not only allowed to speak but even challenged to say something. This is the right time to clarify (if needed) why you are there, what you can and cannot bring. Observe that instead of trying to speak you are asked to speak. But you should say – to end the first leg – that before giving any opinion or advice you still need to ask some questions and learn more.
The second “third” starts. Now, for a reasonable while, you do a couple of important things: ask questions to clarify and to give all the present he occasion to speak, listen (again) carefully an take note and acknowledge the answers and simply let people to speak more while you stress the interest of what they say. Moreover you are positive, endlessly, and selectively positive – you do not push back or criticize, only encourage and value, with common sense, whatever can be valued and each contribution. Your work is to catch people whenever they do something right. This is some work!
After a while there comes a point where you feel that people start to like hearing your voice, because you only utter positive things. They are probably as ready as possible to listen to you. This is where the third “third” starts.
The third time is one where you will use your skill to communicate, teach or convince. I found that, usually, my best is to say: “This reminds me…” and bring an example of what happened and worked elsewhere or to tell a story which by metaphor, by concrete image leads your small (or big) audience from what they know and understand towards what is new and less familiar to them. Reasonably you will be heard, if the metaphors and references were adequate to the people listening.
Another useful thing I do, when possible, is to offer choices, not one solution given from outside. The best will be of course to help people build their own.
I did not finish this rich subject. Remember that the three-legged small wheel is there to keep turning; certainly you will shorten the “times” as adequate, but keep repeating them as you advance.
Remember also that listening well help wherever you go and whatever you do. Even when the situation does not allow for listening, try.
 Zeno of Citium said it: " This-is the reason why we have two ears and only one mouth, that we may hear more and speak less"” Life of Zeno in DIOGENES LAERTIUS,THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS, Tr. C.D. Yonge,, GEORGE BELL & SONS LONDON, 1895, p 268