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Two Ears, One Mouth — Being a Better Listener in 2013

New ImageI was recently reviewing what I call my “Little Red Book” (recorded thoughts and insights I’ve accumulated over the years) and came across something that might help some of our Clashdaily readers in our work and social life. These notes were written for my personal use – as a reminder; they could be of use to you. Needless to say, after thirty years, I’m still trying to improve. Two ears – one mouth – is the proper ratio between talking and listening.

The better informed I am, the greater my chances of obtaining happiness, success and financial independence. In order to grow and develop my maximum potential, I continue to learn at every opportunity. Listening is one of the most effective ways of learning. By improving my listening skill and my ability to concentrate, comprehend and recall what is being said . . . I significantly accelerate my learning and rate of growth and increase my opportunity for success. Furthermore, by listening more attentively to others, I please them and win their friendship.

I know that I have a keen, alert, accurate and dependable mind and that I have the ability to comprehend and concentrate on what is being said. I am not distracted by outside or internal influences.

I will avoid the ten bad listening habits outlined by Dr. Ralph Nicholds in his tape: “Listening is Good Business.” Instead, I have formed the following positive habits, which overcome the ten bad listening habits:

1. I never call a subject uninteresting. I take maximum advantage of every listening situation for the practical and worthwhile.

2. I never criticize a speaker’s delivery. Instead I make the subject matter important by identifying the reasons I should take advantage of the situation and learn what I can from the speaker.

3. I do not become over stimulated, get excited, angry or emotional by the subject matter. I will hold evaluation until comprehension is complete. I hear the speaker out before judging or responding.

4. I listen for the main ideas . . . the principles the speaker is trying to develop. I remember that facts are useful only when used to support a principle. I avoid the pitfall of listening only for facts.

1195548_760791225. I do not try to make a formal outline of every speech. I am a flexible note taker. A good system is to list principles versus supporting facts.

6. I never fake attention to the speaker. Instead, I really tune in to what is being presented.

7. I never tolerate or create distractions. I am an aggressive listener and will insist on being able to hear and see the speaker.

8. I do not avoid difficult, technical and expository materials. Instead I use them to sharpen my listening skills.

9. I never let emotionally laden words or subjects throw me out of tune with the speaker. Again, I remain calm and hear the speaker out before making a judgment.

10. I do not waste the time difference between speech speed and thought speed. Normal conversation speed is 125 words per minute. Normal speech speed is 100 wpm. Average listening speed is 400 wpm. Average college level listening speed is 750 to 800 wpm.

The difference between listening speed and speaking speed is a breeder of mental tangents. A listener tends to listen for 10 seconds and then tune out for 50 seconds. Eventually he tunes out for an extended period.

I avoid this listening problem by following the three basic ingredients of concentration, which use up the time differential between thought speed and speech speed:

a) I run ahead of the speaker and try to anticipate his next point. If I am right, it is reinforced when the speaker covers it. If I am wrong, the contrast and comparison enhances my learning.

b) I identify what the speaker has for evidence to support his points.

c) I mentally recapitulate his main points about every 5 minutes. This will take about 5 seconds. If done every 5 minutes, it doubles my retention of the subject matter.

Remember: God has given us two ears but only one mouth. That might suggest what ought to be the proper emphasis in our lives. We ALL have lots to learn from others. We can resolve to do it more than ever in 2013 by disciplining ourselves to be good listeners.

William Pauwels

William A. Pauwels, Sr. was born in Jackson Michigan to a Belgian, immigrant, entrepreneurial family. Bill is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and served in executive and/or leadership positions at Thomson Industries, Inc., Dow Corning, Loctite and Sherwin-Williams. He is currently CIO of Pauwels Private Investment Practice. He's been commenting on matters political/economic/philosophical since 1980.