Answer these questions to see how accurately you hear what your communication partner intends you to hear.
- How often do you enter conversations to hear what you want to hear – and disregard the rest?
- How often do you listen to get your own agenda across, regardless of the needs of the speaker?
- How often do you have a bias in place before the speaker’s points or agenda are known?
- Do you ever assume what the speaker wants from you before s/he states it – whether your assumption is accurate or not?
- How often do you listen merely to confirm you are right…and the other person is wrong?
- Do you ever enter a conversation without any bias, filters, assumptions, or expectations? What would need to happen for you to enter all conversations with a totally blank slate? Do you have the tools to make that possible?
- Because your filters, expectations, biases, and assumptions strongly influence how you hear what’s intended, how do you know that your natural hearing skills enable you to achieve everything you might achieve in a conversation?
- How much business have you lost because of your inability to choose the appropriate modality to hear and interpret through?
- How many relationships have you lost by driving conversations where you wanted them to be rather than a path of collaboration that would end up someplace surprising?
As I wrote my new book What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? and asked folks I knew to provide feedback, I received similar notes from all around the world saying that the book was great – for their spouses. The consistent message was that they, themselves, heard every word spoken and had no communication problems around their listening skills. Ah, I thought, but do they hear what’s intended?
It’s physiologically impossible to accurately hear all that our communication partners intend to convey. Here are some reasons why:
- we have biases, filters, triggers, assumptions, and habits that uniquely contort what’s heard.
- people don’t always accurately represent what they say and mean for us to hear, leaving out details they assume will be understood and aren’t, or choosing words that have different meanings than how their listeners define them.
- the situation in which our communication is taking place has any range of situational biases that make shared understanding challenging.
- we all interpret what we hear uniquely, according to our education, family history, religious beliefs, political beliefs, age, and ethnicity.
Are you getting the picture here? Assured understanding is not even close to possible. Yet most of us assume we hear accurately. Sure, we hear the words. But do we understand what’s meant?
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Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at email@example.com.