Why listening well is SO challenging

Listening well, as we began saying last week, is arguably one of the most challenging skills in communications. AND it is absolutely critical to building meaningful connections with others.

Let us try and understand some solid reasons why it is so challenging so that we can move beyond the challenges.

Firstly, a study at Princeton University found that there is a lag between what you hear and what you understand. Depending upon the individual, it could be between a few seconds to up to a minute.

This is where the trouble starts.

During that lag-time, we start to listen to ourselves and not to the other person. Have you noticed how you start having a conversation while another person is speaking? Making judgments and assumptions about they are saying and about to say?

While this is happening, of course our understanding of what the other is saying has plummeted.

What causes the lag time between hearing and understanding? Filters such as our physical and emotional state or external distractions (the smartphone!!) contribute to the mismatch in hearing and understanding.

We are hardwired to listen to the other from our own model of the world. This means that we filter everything that is said via our own thoughts and opinions.

We have the tendency to pick out facts or aspects of a communication that validate our pre-existing beliefs, values and perceptions. We are hearing only what we want to hear.

The tendency to hear only what we want to hear is called "confirmation bias".

Experts believe that confirmation bias is linked to how slow we speak vs. how fast we listen.

Secondly, there is there is a difference between how fast we speak and how much we can listen to in the same amount of time.

According to credible research most of us speak at a rate of 175 to 200 words per minute, whereas we are capable of listening and processing up to 1,000 per minute.

Because the brain isn't using its full capacity when listening, the brain drifts off to other thoughts and ideas.

So how do we close the gap between listening and understanding and stop the brain from wandering off in the middle of the conversation?

So glad you asked this million-dollar question as this is what we will be talking about in the days to come!

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