You Can Hear Me, But DO You Hear Me?

Way back in the ‘70’s shortly after I joined The Wall Street Journal it’s forward thinking management shared a short booklet with some tips on how to improve skills associated with good listening.  The stuff was pretty interesting and most of the sales staff became better listeners but, sadly those skills faded over time.  And, back then multi-tasking was talking on the phone while bouncing a ball off the wall.

The point is – to win “the game” we need to speak less and learn to listen better.

The facts are we retain less than half of what we hear and that’s the good news.  Before digital distractions people in a face-to-face conversation could only remember 10% of what was said after a brief distraction, according to a 1987 study that remains the benchmark of conversational recall.  Imagine how today’s distractions and interruptions are negatively impacting that benchmark score!

To avoid falling in the trap of hearing what we want to and not what was said consider these tips.

  • Clear your mind, make a list, turn-off distractions including mobile and PC’s
  • Take notes to stay focused
  • Paraphrase what you think the speaker said and ask if you’re on target
  • Ask clarifying questions, note the speaker’s body language and use pauses to draw out more information
  • Set a goal of talking 25% of the time and listening 75%
  • Summarize the conversation drawing out next steps
  • And, if appropriate, set the next meeting

Remember, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus (Greek philosopher AD 55-c.135).

For more information about improving listening skills visit

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