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Listen Up - The Secret To Better Communication

person listening to another person intently
person listening to another person intently

The Lost Art of Listening

Imagine being told you can dramatically improve your communication skills with one simple act: truly listening.

Think it sounds easy? Research suggests otherwise. While we spend nearly half our workday listening, our comprehension rate is a dismal 25%. In essence, we're often waiting to talk, not waiting to understand.

Here's the crux: there are two ways to listen. We can listen to respond, focusing on formulating a counterpoint while the other person speaks. Or, we can listen to understand, giving them our full attention to grasp their perspective.

Responding vs. Understanding

Listening to respond is a one-up game, where we're constantly jockeying to interject our own ideas before the other person finishes speaking.. We latch onto keywords, itching to inject our own thoughts. This stifles true connection and hinders learning.

Conversely, listening to understand is an act of empathy. We patiently absorb the full message, seeking the speaker's deeper meaning and emotions. This fosters connection, strengthens relationships, and fuels creativity (the core of improvisation!).

Train Your Listening Ears: The First Letter, Last Letter Exercise

Ready to become a better listener? Try an improv game called "First Letter, Last Letter."

In pairs, take turns having conversations where the first letter of your next sentence must match the last letter of your partner's previous sentence.

This seemingly silly exercise forces you to truly listen before speaking. You'll be surprised how much more you absorb when you focus on understanding, not just waiting for your turn to talk.

The best part? Your conversation partner doesn't even need to know you're actively honing your listening skills. So, put down your mental rebuttal and start truly listening!

At PeopleStorming, we write a bi-weekly newsletter on all things culture, communication and collaboration. Join us here.

You might be interested in our Coaching workshop, where we'll help you harness the power of deep, active listening to unlock new levels of understanding.

If you're curious about Organizational Improv, we also have a great workshop for you. In this session, we'll show you how to leverage the principles and practices of professional improvisers to produce incredible results in the workplace.