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Listen Up


Today's Snack: Pudding in a Cone. Get a small sugar cone that usually holds ice cream. You'd be surprised how few calories one of those cones has, as long as there isn't high-sugar, high-calorie, high-fat ice cream inside. But with your cone, you're going to fill it with low-fat, sugar-free pudding, mounding it slightly, and topping it with a dollop (that's a blob) of non-fat non-dairy whipped topping. Lick while you listen!






Stopwatch per two-person team


2 pieces of paper and a pencil for each person



Now hear this: up to 85% of what we learn comes through our eyes - through visual perception of what we see and read.


But also hear this: tests have shown that when there is a misunderstanding between two people, in only 1% is the problem caused by eyesight - someone misinterpreting something that they've seen or read. Instead, 60% of the time, people don't understand correctly or agree on something, because they HEARD it wrong.


Last, but not least, hear this: listening is effective communication when the message comes clearly, but even so, we only remember 25% of what we hear. Using our eyesight - seeing and reading - we remember just a little bit more, 30%. But when we are given a message that uses both - hearing AND seeing - we tend to remember 70%!


Not only that, of all human activities and behaviors, there's only ONE thing that we do more often than listen. Can you name it? No, it doesn't involve making comic body sounds. The No. 1 thing our body does is breathing. But No. 2 is listening!


In fact, of our three most common behaviors or activities besides plain old breathing, we spend only 16% of our time reading, 30% of our time talking, and 45% of our time listening!


But most of us aren't being very productive with all that listening time. The main reason people only remember 25% of what they hear is that they haven't really trained themselves to process what they hear and "store" that information in their brain rapidly, with easy access to it once they decide in the future that they would like to know that information again.


Any student probably knows that if the material or the message that we're listening to is overly complicated, we forget it within two weeks. Case in point: spelling lists? Math formulae? Historical dates? You can memorize them, both by reading them and listening to a teacher teach you about them. But in about two weeks after the test, poof! For the most part, that sort of information is long gone.


On the other hand, how come people can remember the lyrics to their favorite songs FIFTY YEARS later?!? Because if what you're listening to is engaging - gets your attention, keeps you interested, makes you "invest" your time because it seems worthwhile - then listening is a tremendous learning and communication tool.


Other tips:


n      To improve your listening skills, try to anticipate the speaker's next main point. If you're right, you've really focused in on the message and are really "getting it." If you're wrong, that's OK; we learn by comparing and contrasting all sorts of things - including what you THOUGHT someone was going to say vs. what that person actually said. So either way, you gain.


n      Don't just zone out while you're listening. Keep your mind active. Every five minutes or so, go through a silent, mental "recap" in your mind of the highlights of the speech. Never mind all the details - just review, briefly, in your mind, what the speaker's key points have been. You'll have a much better chance of grasping the key points of the speech if you "chunk" them down into manageable bites as you go along.


n      Remember that statistic, that when we are presented a message that requires us to both visualize something and listen to something, we retain 70% of the information - much more than if we only see/read it, or only hear it. Therefore, the most effective messages will employ sight AND sound. Bottom line: YOU are your best visual aid, when you're trying to get someone to listen.



Partner Activity: Each person gets 2 pieces of paper and a pencil. Students get into two's, choose a topic together, and then take turns giving each other speeches of no more than 3 minutes. The "audience" person should hold the stopwatch and cut the speech off at 3 minutes if it goes that long.


Topic ideas: describe an athletic event you played in, or a trip you took, or what happened in your favorite class the other day, or the funniest thing you ever saw, or what you did over the weekend, or something you feel is important that's going on in the world today. Try to pack in as many facts, ideas and details as you can, but still make your presentation very memorable.


It's OK to stand up in front of your "audience" and move around. Or you can sit on a chair or the floor - wherever you're comfortable. But remember what we just learned about sight and sound being more effective when both are used as communication tools. The only "props" you might use would be the scratch paper and pencil you were given.


At the end of the first person's speech, the other one cannot ask questions or do anything else - just sit there and write down as much of the speech as they can remember.


It doesn't have to be in full sentences - just notes will do. Take no more than 1 minute for this "response" time. Now switch positions, and the second person should give a speech of up to 3 minutes on the same topic, and the first person should listen, and when it's over, record notes.


Now compare each other's notes. Which of you did the better job of communicating? Which of you was the better listener? What are you going to do about these results? Listen up: anything you can do to make yourself a better listener will be time well spent. D'ya hear?


By Susan Darst Williams Partners & Teams 04 2008




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