There was an old owl who sat on an oak,

The more he saw the less he spoke.

The less he spoke the more he heard,

Why aren’t we like that old bird?

(Edward Hersley Richards)

Wow Mr. Richards, that is a timeless question. When we were children, our parents believed the old saying “Children should be seen and not heard.” This was enforced when adults were around and even more forcibly if said adults were house guests.

In today’s post-modern world this thought would be frowned upon, and parents could be severely chastised and reprimanded for even considering such an archaic notion. We now catalogue to those practices as “old time.” We insist on the rights of all individuals, sometimes without emphasizing the corresponding responsibilities of the said rights.

Back to the Wise old Bird, did he have the right to speak? Yes, he did. Did he have the right to speak about everything he saw and heard? He did. Please consider with me, if he had insisted on his rights, would he still be considered a wise old bird? Some would affirm this argument, while others would reflect and embrace the wisdom of his practice.

Listening is a conscious decision made by the individual; it goes beyond hearing to the point of understanding. Active listening requires time and patience. Every speaker, whether professional or participant in a casual conversation wants to be heard, for others to be actively listening. This can become quite an arduous task if we are trying to speak at the same time as another is speaking. The simplicity of this can often be lost in the heat of the moment. None more so than when the speaker is erring – in our opinion.

Wise people listen, sometimes more than they speak. This can be misinterpreted as being non-communicative or even a lack of interest, worse yet, as a sign of weakness. James the bother of Jesus and writer of the biblical letter bearing his name advises, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1: 19 – 20)

There are several benefits to heeding James’ trifecta. Here are three benefits to consider, you can add more to this list if you wish: (1) the ability to ask the proper questions, (2) a better understanding of conflict, (3) a pathway towards deeper personal relationships.

The old owl saw and heard more the less he spoke. The less he spoke the wiser he became. So why aren’t we like that old bird?