Listening – The Quiet Power


An important bottom line benefit from ‘Quiet Power Listening‘ is you decode the real truth when someone says, for example, “That’s my best offer.” Imagine how helpful power listening can be in negotiations. For skilled listeners, the adage, “the truth will out,” becomes a reality.

Understand this: It is hard, if not impossible, to manipulate a skilled listener. The reason is skilled listening is objective. You understand what others mean, whether they want you to or not. In listening between the lines, you will really know when you have heard their best offer. Then, you have all the information you need to act.

Listening - The Quiet PowerThe shocking communication truth, however, is the average listener hears less than 50% of what is said, understands less than 25%, believes less than 10%, and remembers less than 5%. Starting to unravel some of the mysterious communication mess-ups you deal with on a daily basis from just about everyone you converse with?

Wondering why people seem to have such a hard time hearing and understanding what they hear? Listening is largely a self-taught skill not often taught in schools as a communication tool.

I know I had no listening skills taught to me all the way up through graduate school. Motivated businesspeople need to hone the fine art of listening constantly, remembering that listening is a whole body process: emotions, mind, eyes, senses and non-verbal body language. Even when you know the skills, maintaining them requires attentive polishing. Like singers and musicians, skilled listeners must practice every day, or lose their edge.

Consider conversations with these annoying communicators who can’t keep still or quiet:

Of course, there’s more work involved. Since you cannot listen in a vacuum, you have to not only keep yourself in line, but also keep others from derailing progress as politely as possible. Look at the seven types of distracting communicators. Here are some suggestions on how to encourage them to engage in progress-oriented communication:

  • The Fidgets Who Wiggle and Watch/Clock Check “You seem anxious to get on to something else. Is there a more convenient time for us to discuss this?”
  • The Interrupters“I’d appreciate it if you would let me finish my thought.”
  • The Contradictors “I’d appreciate it if you would let me finish my thought before you contradict me.”
  • The Competitors These people are what they are, nothing you can say will change them.
  • The Defenders Who Go to War for Their Point of View “I’d like to see us be open to all points of view and give others a chance to express theirs.”
  • The Drones Who Love the Sound of Their Own Voices – “Please make your point so we can move forward.” or “Can you hold your thoughts? I’d like to hear from some of the others who have not yet spoken.”
  • The Out of Touch, Off-Point Distractors “Let’s stay focused.”

These common distracting communication bad habits are some of the reasons why conversations, meetings, and negotiations with skilled listeners are rare. Easy to blame others for communication problems rather than learn how to listen effectively to decode messages and actively create mutual understanding.

Are you wondering where you are going to get the thinking time to decode messages and formulate your responses when others are speaking?

Here’s how it all works:

  • People speak at the rate of between 120-150 words per minute.
  • People process information three times as fast as they speak, or 320-450 words per minute.
  • People think at the rate of 850-1,200 words per minute.

Can you see the wiggle time you have to interpret messages and hold or note in writing important points and ideas? You need to use your fast thinking capacity productively to understand, retain and respond. Otherwise, your wiggle time will be spent unproductively out-listening. Interesting concept, out-listening. This is when our minds take side trips into family, leisure, and unspeakable thoughts unrelated to the communication in process. Too often when listeners are out-listening, they don’t come back in quickly enough to be up to speed with what is going on–effectively getting caught with their ears down.

Intelligent silence quietly pours power into your communications. Intelligent silence? Yes, a difference exists between bored silence and intelligent silence. Remember, you’ll look intelligent while quietly reading body language. Listeners who wield the power of silence to their advantage are perceived by speakers as attentive, interested and connected in conversation. Power listeners make speakers feel comfortable. Sound like a plan?

Your intelligent silence also strikes as a friendly listening skill. If speakers aren’t stressed by fighting for your listening attention, they can concentrate on what they are saying and speak more thoughtfully. Therefore, silence benefits listeners and speakers, enhancing the clarity of their communication process.

Granville Toogood of Toogood Associates, an executive communications company in Darien, CT, recommends four reasons for using pauses to power up listening effectiveness:

  1. To make certain that you hear everything that the person who is doing the talking is trying to say.
  2. To give yourself a chance to hear what that person is trying to say between the lines. (Sometimes a speaker will make an inference that is not direct, and you need to be actively listening and looking for it.)
  3. To formulate what the person is saying, digest it and have a chance to think about how you would like to respond.
  4. To give others a non-verbal signal that you are a thoughtful person who does not shoot from the hip and should be taken seriously.

Investing your time to develop The Pause as a listening skill can also work to correct other poor listening habits. Disciplining yourself to pause and ponder helps you to quiet your mind and overcome the mental and physical distractions that decrease comprehension and retention. Free from distractions, you are more able to pick out central ideas, maintain emotional control, evaluate what is being said without the context of what you are trying to accomplish, and check with a speaker about anything that remains unclear.

You have the advantage when you learn to practice Intense Power Listening. Listening intensely to learn can make you more objective. Objectivity is important to profitable progress. People you might off-handedly dismiss can come up with good ideas. Objectivity enables you to listen for ideas, keep personal dislikes out of the way of the message, and gather the best nuggets of communication, information you can use to increase productivity and/or earn more profit.

Without Quiet Power Listening Skills, you are likely to miss 93% of every conversation. Say what? In face-to-face conversation, words represent only 7% of the message. A full 55% of the message is communicated by body language and 38% by tone of voice. Is it any wonder poor listeners, a 90% majority, miss and misunderstand so much of what is said to them?

Skilled listeners, a 10% minority, on the other hand, work hard at getting any speaker’s message. They hear the message, ask questions to make sure they understand it, and take notes to make sure they remember it.

Here’s what you can expect from the power of silence. You will definitely save time by your clearer understanding of decoding a speaker’s message rather than passively hearing it.

You spend an enormous part of your day, over 70-90%, communicating in one way or another. On average, getting information from others by various means takes up 61% of that time, and giving information 41%. Certainly, improving your communication results with Quiet Power Listening Skills will save you time and money.

1 Comment
  1. Avatar of Jack Eason
    Jack Eason says

    Great article Barbara.

    “Intelligent silence quietly pours power into your communications.” A lot of today’s television newsrooms should adopt that approach, instead of insisting their reporters speak at the speed of a machine gun, without allowing them time to draw a breath…


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