My wife and I are opposites. She loves to talk and I prefer to listen. She and her sister sometimes talk simultaneously and neither seems to be listening to the other. When my wife was interviewing people for our book, It's Okay to Cry, she discovered that she often talked while others were talking. When she transcribed the audiotapes, she could not hear the other person because she was talking over him. She learned a valuable lesson about listening. I have also discovered that talking can energize me. After giving a speech, I want to keep talking but there is no one to listen since everyone has fled. Talking helps me to think through my problems and come to a better understanding of what is on my mind.
When we spend our time talking, we become self-absorbed, caught up in our perceptions of the world, and unaware of those around us. Listening allows us to step outside ourselves and see the world through the eyes of others. Listening helps us grow and develop as compassionate individuals.
We probably learn more from the failures of others than we do from our successes. As writers, storytellers and artists, we need to understand other people — why they behave in the way they do. What motivates them? What drives them? The better we understand people, the more realistic and truthful our art will be.
So take the time to listen to others and understand what makes them tick. Your creative work will be stronger, wiser, and more engaging because of it.