Most of the crowd was slowly shaking their heads in disbelief. What had just happened? It was a simple communication exercise, and something went horribly wrong…
My good friend and mentor, Jim Lundy, had just completed an exercise on listening at one of his communication and leadership workshops.
Here, you can try his simple listening exercise now, I think you might be surprised at the results:
First, he would very slowly and clearly say…
“Please listen carefully! I’m going to say a three-letter word, and when you hear my three-letter word you should think of a word. Your word should be different from my three-letter word, and I’m going to tell you my word soon.”
Then he would ask…
“Please raise your hand if you think that you understand the essence of what I just said.”
Typically, about 95 percent of the participants would raise their hand in confirmation of their understanding.
Next, he would ask them to write down essentially what they thought he said.
When the participants were asked to read out loud what they wrote down, about 90 percent of them wrote down something that was absolutely wrong!
The three most common errors were:
- Well over half of them said they should come up with another three-letter word.
- More than three-fourths said they should tell him their word.
- About a fourth of them said they should write down their word.
Observation: WOW! Even after the participants were asked to listen carefully, almost nobody correctly understood the simple message!
Well, how did you do? Did you clearly understand what was being communicated in the above exercise?
If you want to confirm that a person has understood you, you don’t simply ask them, “Did you understand me?”
Why? Because others may truly believe they have understood you even though they haven’t.
The fact is, as listeners, we should not hesitate or be afraid to ask questions – even what we may consider to be “dumb” questions.
“Don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions. They’re easier to handle than dumb mistakes!” – Jim Lundy
As the recipient of a message, if you’re not sure what you’ve heard, or if you disagree with what you think you’ve heard, seek clarification with a neutral, positive tone.
For example, ask:
- “Do you mean that…?” or
- “Are you suggesting that…?”
Why is it important to listen?
Every person can improve their listening skills by understanding the following 5 truths about listening.
1. Hearing vs. Listening
There is a difference between “hearing” and listening.
- Hearing is a function of the ears.
- Listening is a function of the will.
People listen to connect with others and to learn.
“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King
2. Faulty Communications
Ultimately, poor listening leads to hostility, miscommunication, and a breakdown of team cohesion.
Peter Drucker, the father of American management, believes that 60 percent of all management problems are the result of faulty communications.
3. Gains from Listening
When you listen, you gain something more precious than the privilege to speak:
- You gain insight into people.
- You connect with the speaker.
- You earn your right to speak.
- You become relevant.
- You understand the keys to the speaker’s heart.
- You identify common ground with the speaker.
- You gain authority.
- You learn.
Insight: Remember, when you speak, nothing you say will teach you anything. Only when you listen will you gain understanding.
4. Touching a Heart
We don’t lose intimacy when we stop talking. But, we do indeed forfeit intimacy when we stop listening.
That is why…
- We feel good when others listen to us.
- The sheer act of listening speaks volumes that even a great speech can’t communicate.
- Value for the other person.
- Desire to grow, to learn, and to remain teachable.
“Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.” – John Maxwell
5. Two Ears and One Mouth
We have two ears and one mouth…and we should use them in that proportion.
Do the math – Listen twice as much as we speak or ask questions.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry… James 1:19 NIV
The percentage for listening needs to be higher than speaking. And remember, this is more than hearing, it’s listening from the heart.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill
When families, organizations, or teams of any kind enjoy communicative interactions, they will be more inspired as well as better informed.
What a deal – achieving inspiration as well as information with so little extra cost or effort!
How well do you listen …really listen from the heart? Could you improve your listening skills? What did you learn about why it is important to listen? Please share your thoughts <here> and share this blog post with your family, friend, or co-worker.