A mentor of mine in LA always told me, “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason… We should listen twice as much as we speak.” This wisdom has stuck with me since he told me, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet his mentor,Quincy Jones, who ultimately was the first to use the phrase. When I met Quincy, he was speaking forGuitar Center Sessionsin theGuitar Center in Hollywood, and used the very phrase in the interview. So why’s it so important that Quincy’s been using it and telling people for many decades, and now it sticks with me?
Quincy’s reason for using this is probably different than the reason I use it with my clients and people I have under my wing. It would seem obvious for this to be used to express this to someone (music-related or not) who you really think might need to learn to listen more, and not speak so damn much! I know that Quincy also employed self-developed methods of deep listening, which he practiced regularly. The man could find the musical key of a room of people making noise. People tend to ride a wave together. If you can hear it, you can see it. You can see where it came from. You can change it.
It’s empowering to know that just by listening a person one might be able to distinguish not only where sources lie, and who’s who on a recording form 1949, or just how delicately an instrument might be played on record – which will teach you a lot about how to play, how to create tones, how to make music generally. For me this phrase goes well beyond the general, or just music.
Ultimately for me, the reason we have two ears and one mouth has to do with time. We’ve got limited time on this rare earth with which we should be present to the fact that there are two ears listening for one mouth to translate into words an interpretation and elicitation of thought around what we hear. But it’s not just that… We have many ways to communicate, and those other forms of communication (two hands, two feet, one nose, two cheeks, two eyes, two eyebrows) are all ways in which we both receive and transmit info with each other. The uniqueness in which we hear things, and that the most developed form of communication we have is with words that come from our mouth, is what speaks to me.
I believe that there’s great practice in not only listening first, and speaking second. But that there’s great practice in listening while we speak. We have a unique opportunity, that’s amazing to practice, to both send and receive at the same exact moment. I do it every time I get on stage. I have to listen deeply while putting myself into the delivery of my message whole heartedly all at once. This is why we have two ears and one mouth, for me. It’s kind of like saying, “Cause we can”. But on a level of practice, think about what can happen if you really consider the possibility of listening deeper, and speaking while being more aware.