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November 7, 2011

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This article wants to actually improve YOUR listening.  Its first challenge is to get the guilty verdict on our collective ineptitude as listeners.  But, listening is like driving (or better yet, parenting) in that it is one of those things that we all believe we are good at yet also believe that everybody else is bad at (or not as good as US anyway).  George Carlin explained this ego-centrism best when he explained that everyone on the road driving faster than US is a “maniac” while anyone driving slower than US is a “moron.”


For now, Step two in our efforts to improve our listening is to actually REPLACE the word “hearing” with the word “observing” when discussing the listening process as a whole.  Textbooks tell us that Listening, as a process, involves the following six stages or “ing” words (as I call them):

  • Hearing
  • Attending
  • Understanding
  • Remembering
  • Evaluating
  • Responding

Clearly we engage in the remaining five “ings” after tasting, touching, smelling and seeing as we do after “hearing”?  So, when we realize that we can listen to the observations of all our senses (not just hearing) we move towards an understanding of how complex this listening business can be!  But, how complex is it?


Well, the amount of information that is “observed” by the senses sub-consciously is estimated at 400 billion bits of data (yes, billion) per second (yes, per second!).  Imagine that!   Of this amount, researchers estimate that only two thousand are actually brought to consciousness (processed psychologically).  This means we have incredible filtering capacity but also begs several questions regarding HOW we filter and WHAT gets filtered…questions about the attention that gets paid or unpaid to all of our observations on a second-to-second, minute-to-minute basis.

So, a Third Step towards listening effectiveness is to ask and answer (for yourself before others) some of the questions of attention:

  • What determines which 2,000 bits make it to consciousness and why the other 399,998,000 don’t?
  • Of the 2,000 that DO make it to consciousness, how many of them CAN we attend to?
  • How radically is our effectiveness diluted with each new/additional “bit” of data we attempt to attend to?
  • What determines which of the 2,000 we’ll attend to if we are unable to attend to them all?
  • Do our logical and emotional selves have “equal votes” when it comes to deciding what we will “pay attention” to?
  • When we WANT to pay attention to something, how is it that our attention can simply “drift” to something else?
  • Or why, when we’d prefer NOT to be thinking about those exact things still manage to grab and hold our attention?

When asking yourself these and other questions of attention, your answers will most likely be found in the “purposes” of listening.

Wolf Management offers customized workshops, seminars, training’s and private coaching that will improve your listening and help you improve the listening of others on your team, staff, jury, committee, or household.  Click here to explore a customized Listening Program for you!


From → Communication

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