The explosion of psychological studies during the 20th century has to some extent permeated the business community - and with good reason. Much of business (especially selling) is rooted in the ability to understand and communicate. As such, any development that enables such skills to be improved would (ideally) be looked upon favorably by businesses.

Take the art of good listening as an example. Only within the past 35 years have we become aware of its influence in business and industry; and attempts to teach listening as a skill have been made for less time than that.

The truth of the matter is that more time is spent in listening than one might at first realize. A good executive will spend almost as much time listening to something or somebody as (s)he does in performing the innumerable chores peculiar to his/her office.

Through the process of evolved experience, which the executive has gained going up the ladder, (s)he has absorbed the knowledge of listening even though (s)he has not received formal training in this field.

(S)he has, however, been taught the other language arts:

Research shows that all of us have a number of bad listening habits and these habits have a detrimental effect on our process of learning.

Few of us have the ability to concentrate completely on what is being asked.

There are too many things that tend to pull us away from the thin thread of concentration. As an example, if you yourself are in church, listening to the sermon, and you happen to glance out the window and see an autumn leaf drift across your field of vision, then, through association, your mind tells you that winter is approaching. Your subconscious then adds to the chain of thought: "Winter is coming - that means I'll have to budget for fuel expenses."

And there it goes - the untrained mind may run off from there lacking the ability to pull itself back to the point where it had initially become engaged.

In the art of communications there are four phases: speaking, reading, writing, and listening. We have all been taught the first three, but few of us have received any instruction in the latter.

Without such instruction, a salesperson could conceivably talk him - or herself into a deal, and then right out of it, without even being aware that this has happened. Somewhere along the line, though, (s)he went astray.

There are ten bad listening habits

1. The Premature decision that subject material will not be interesting.
Now the acid test - how many here went through their program early this morning, then checked off the portions that wouldn't be interesting? It is a certainty that everyone here performed this mental checking off, and yet you are all here, attending that which you may well wish to ignore.

2. Pretend attention.
This one is fairly self-explanatory. If one is not willing to absorb knowledge in the first place, it is that much easier to drift out what is going on.

3. Yielding to promotion or distraction.
What do you do when you hear a sudden noise? Do you turn to see what made it?

4. Failure to adjust to the speaker.
A pattern of speech, a clashing tie, a repeated gesture, or physical attributes - any or all of these may draw the focus of an audience, and lead it away from the actual message.

5. Aversion of difficult material.
For a plethora of reasons, study after study that has attempted to capture television viewing habits has demonstrated that the most popular shows tend to be ...

By contrast, attempts at learning or discussion are rarely stimulated (No, Rush Limbaugh doesn't count!) in North American audiovisual media.

6. Hop-Skip-Jump.
It has been proven that the human brain can absorb 600 words per minute. If I was to speak at 200 words per minute, then what has your mind been doing in the meantime?

7. "I want the truth" verses "I want the facts"
The majority of persons go to a lecture or address with the sole thought that they wish only facts... nothing but facts. It worked for Joe Friday, but it won't work for others. When you listen to someone, prepare to listen to everything. You never know what you might pick up.

8. Yielding to emotional deafspots.
There are words that give offense. There are also words that do not necessarily give offense in polite company, but with nonetheless create emotional deafspots: mother-in-law, Cathlic, Oriental, Muslim, Jew. As soon as a selected word is used by the speaker, ingrained habit or prior prejudice fastens the mind onto the word and its inferences, and the remainder of the theme is lost. The word has effectively derailed the train of thought.

9. Overanalysis.
To illustrate: "It's all right for the speaker to say that his plan should be adopted... but it won't work on my territory." As soon as (or before, if one is being more rational) this conclusion has been made, the person thinking this begins compiling a list of reasons why it may not work, possible going over both arguments and counterarguments... and in doing so, she has interrupted the chain of communication.

10. Pencil and Paper Listening.
This can in fact be a very good aid, but it is wise to remember that you can always expand upon what you write later, rather than concentrate on your note-taking skills to the detriment of the subject material.

On conclusion, the following study from the University of Minnesota is given as a surprising example. The best listeners were found to be... small children. Specifically, children are 5-6 years listen up to 85% - 90% of the time, children are 6-9 listen up to 75% of the time, age 10-14, up to 50%, and from 15 onwards - only 25%.

Obviously, then, listening is not a lost art but a new one.

-- essay passed out from a class

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