Friday, March 4, 2011

What do cows drink?

Are you a good listener?

Have you ever held a department meeting and gave specific instructions for a new procedure and someone raises a hand and asks, “How are we supposed to do the new procedure?”  Have you ever given your class an assignment and said it was due on Thursday, then right after saying so, someone raises a hand and asks, “When is this due?” Can you think of any other dumb questions you get during a meeting because people don’t listen? I am sure you can.

When talking to a group of people, this will always happen. In the next post, I will list six strategies to help with reducing those questions and helping your listeners understand your message more clearly.

Many of the principles discussed here are also applicable to relationships.

Social Science researchers claim that people listen only 25% percent of the time when someone else is talking. Do you agree with this statistic? Upon further examination of this information we understand that many things are going on in our lives. Folks are bored, tired, sick, or are having conflict with family, co-workers, the boss, and/or neighbors. Some are day dreaming, some are worried, and some are hungry. This statistic is starting to make sense, isn’t it?

In a survey conducted by Ron Adler, social scientist and author, he surveyed 4,400 college students in 1999 on their listening during an hour long presentation. Here are his results:

12% were actively listening to everything;

20% were listening most of the time; but, admitted to “zoning out” at times;

20% were worried about something in their lives;

20% were daydreaming;

20% were having erotic thoughts (remember, they are college students),

8% were thinking about what they were going to eat for lunch.

If we take the generally accepted notion that people, on average, listen only 25% of the time to what is being said, and compare this notion to Adler’s study which concludes that only 32% (12% plus 20%) are listening at any given time, then this statistic gains validity.

Now, let’s combine this statistic with another one. It is pretty well documented by the psychology field that when people listen, they can only remember 50% of what they hear immediately after hearing it. Can you think of several reasons for this? The reasons are numerous: rapid thought, stress, defensive listening, waiting for the other to stop talking so we can say what we want to say, pseudo-listening because we are busy, lack of interest, illnesses, medicine, and on and on.

Then, after eight hours, they remember only 25% of what they heard, and it slowly fades away even more after those eight hours.

Do you see the problem here?

If people are listening 25-32% of the time and they only remember, on the average, 50% of what they hear, then we have a real challenge of getting our message across. How do we increase the effectiveness of our message and get the listeners to listen better? We’ll answer that in the next post.

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