Are You Listening, Or Are You Waiting To Speak?

Are You Listening, Or Are You Waiting To Speak?

by David Taylor

Last fall, I had the pleasure of returning to my alma mater, Duke University, as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series at the Fuqua School of Business. Dean Bill Boulding and I spent about an hour talking about career growth, what it means to be a leader and how Procter & Gamble is working to improve the lives of all our stakeholders. We talked about lifelong learning, and I related some of my own experiences form earlier in my career, which I’ve shared previously here.

During our wide-ranging conversation, Dean Boulding reminded me of something I shared with him long ago—effective communication depends just as much on listening as it does on what you say. We can all judge how well we’re doing as communicators by asking ourselves: “Am I listening? Or am I waiting to speak?”


This approach to listening is important. Actively listening to what others are saying leads to understanding and understanding leads to dialogue. Dialogue is more than just paying attention to the person you’re talking with; it is trying on their ideas and their thoughts—taking time to fully understand their point of view. When disagreement or different viewpoints are in play, true listening also involves looking for ways to take the best of both to come to a better answer… a better third way.  

Listening Broadens Horizons

In today’s society, it’s very easy to isolate ourselves in our own echo chambers, hearing from people whose experiences and points of view are similar to our own. It’s important to make a deliberate effort to listen to diverse points of view and get the benefit of thinking of many different people. Doing this opens up so many possibilities for better solutions. 


This is critically important for a consumer goods company like P&G. Our business depends on our ability to truly listen to consumers’ needs, so that we can build a deep understanding of how to create the brands and products that they need now and anticipate what they need next. Listening builds trust, and it’s one of the reasons many of our brands have been around for over a century.

I fundamentally believe we learn best and lead best when we actively listen – and the more we all practice and do that, then better off we’ll all be. We’ll be giving ourselves an enormous opportunity to grow and contribute at higher levels at home, at work and in society.



Originally published May 22, 2019 on LinkedIn.  David Taylor is the Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer at Procter & Gamble. 

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