Active listening; when you read those words out loud what kinds of images conjure up in your mind? Active Listening – What does it suggest to you? A study conducted by Dr. Ralph Nichols – a communication expert – suggests that individuals listen about 25% of the time; most people recall only 50% of what they hear; and 70% of all misunderstandings happen because people do not listen to each other. It’s been reported that grade school aged children listen to their teacher just 25% if the time? By the time young people graduate from high school they are listening to the teacher just 17% if the time. That number drops to 12% by the time they earn their college diploma. How much do you think they are listening by the time they join the workforce? How much do you think they are listening by the time they come to work for you?
Worth Remembering …
“There is no such thing as a bad listener. There is only a person with inflexible listening habits” – Doug Larson
Have you ever observed a conversation going on between two people and know that neither one of them was listening just by watching their body language and listening to what was or wasn’t being said? (They where just waiting for the other person to take a breath so they could jump in and take over the discussion) Two monologues don’t make a dialogue.
Worth Remembering …
“We have two ears but only one mouth. Some people suggest that’s because we should spend twice as much time listening as opposed to talking. Others suggest it’s because listening is twice as hard” – Author Unknown
We all suffer from natural tune-out. We listen and speak at two different rates of speed which makes listening difficult at the best of times. According to Dr. Nichols the average person has the ability to speak at a rate of 125 to 150 words per minute. Yet, your mind can comprehend and process information at an average rate of 500 words per minute. If you do the math that adds up to a time-lapse of some 350 words. What can you do to stay in the moment and avoid tuning out? What can you do to stay focused on the sender and not let your mind start to wander? What new habits will you need to learn to become a more “Active” listener?
Receivers Need to Develop Good Listening Habits
We are adults and we can learn new habits. Just stop doing one thing and start doing another. And the more that you do it – the more it becomes you. And if you do it often enough you’ll have developed a new habit. Habits are great because you end up doing it without even thinking about it.
Patience: Be patient with yourself and the speaker. Do not interrupt. Concentrate on what the speaker is saying. When they have finished ask open and closed ended questions for clarity. (Being patient was a hard one for me. I have a tendency to jump in and finish your sentence for you)
Focus: Send verbal and non-verbal cues to the sender that you are giving them your undivided attention. (I call that the Dr. Fraser Crane – Hello – I’m listening) Be sure to smile – face the speaker – turn off the cell phone – put down your papers, and give the speaker your undivided attention. (I find myself slipping back now and again and positioning my arms across my chest. People may interpret that as being closed and that you are no longer listening)
Open Mindedness: Try not to become emotional. React and respond to what is being said, not to the speaker. As Dale Carnegie said – “I listen to understand … not necessarily to agree”. Respect the fact that people have a right to their opinions and they have a right to express their opinions. As long as they do it respectfully and play nice.
Worth Remembering …
“In the Industrial Age, the CEO sat on the top of the hierarchy and didn’t have to listen to anybody. In the Information Age; you have to listen to the ideas of people regardless of where they are in the organization.” – John Sculley
Active listening (Receiving) is as important to communication as effective speaking (Sending). I think the receiver is the most important person in the conversation. If they don’t receive the message the way the sender intended – then what ever the sender said means absolutely nothing. Good communication takes two. Be “Actively” involved. What new habits will you need to learn to become a more active listener?