Did you know that a recent study reveals that we remember as little as 25% of what we hear?
If you’re in school you’ll get an F since you’re tested on what you remember hearing in class.
If you’ve spent money to attend a conference and you only remember 25% of what the speakers say, then you’ve lost 75% of your money.
Take it home. If your spouse gives you four things to do today and you remember one, he or she will not be pleased.
Why do we have so much trouble remembering what we hear? Is there an underlying reason? Can we do anything at all about it?
The answer is “yes” and “absolutely”.
The first reason we don’t remember what we hear is that we’re too bored to listen intently. This could be because the person talking to you isn’t saying anything you find interesting. So, you take a mental trip to dreamland. There you are, at home plate. Your team is counting on you. The bat is resting on your shoulder. You’re in the victory stance. The pitcher stretches. He pitches. The ball leaves his fingers and is heading straight for you when…..
It could be a couple things. The other person may have whacked you with her hand or by saying, “Are you listening to anything I’m saying?” Or maybe you’ve just realized she’s finished talking and you haven’t got the slightest idea what she said.
The second reason we don’t remember what we hear is because we don’t like who’s talking. Since we don’t like him, we prejudge every word he says. Suppose your boss tells you, “Starting this week, it’s overtime hours for everyone with no extra pay. We’ve got to hit our goals and your help is required.” You think, “Over my dead body. I won’t work as hard if I have to be here all hours with no appreciation from the bosses.”
If a peer announces to you, “I’m going to be the top salesman in the company this year.” You respond by thinking, “Not if I have anything to do with it.” You want to be the best too and this twit isn’t going to ruin it for you if you can help it.
The third reason we don’t remember what we hear is we’re just distracted. You’ve got a meeting in ten minutes and you’re running late. You’ve got to take care of that “honey-do” list your spouse gave you this morning, if you can find it. Anyone that has the audacity to interrupt you when you’re in the middle of all this better spill what she has to say fast, otherwise you will dismiss them without a second thought.
Now that we know why we don’t listen, let’s look at some constructive ways to improve our memories of what we hear.
The first thing you can do to improve your listening memory is to simply look the speaker in the eye and add a smile or an engaging expression. You do this so that you won’t appear bored. But you might be thinking, “What if I really am bored?” Then fake it. There’s a psychological truth here. If you claim a feeling and act as if it were so, eventually you’ll really have that feeling. For instance, if you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic. The same goes for confidence. Pretend you have it and it will magically build itself in you.
It works for actors, right?
People will probably find you much warmer than before too.
The second thing you can do to improve your listening memory is to listen to the whole message. The words are important but they are only part of the package. There is also the tone of voice, the emotions of the speaker, and the context of the message. What do the words tell you? Does the speaker’s voice indicate happiness or sadness? Anger or frustration? Enthusiasm or passiveness? Is the context of the message related to a project or is it social? If you’ll answer these questions, you’ll aid your memory and be able to make better decisions with the information.
The third thing you can do to improve your listening memory is to reflect back to the speaker what she said. You might say in your own words, “This is what I heard. Is that what you meant?” This provides an opportunity to get on the same page if both of you aren’t yet. Also, if there is any cloudiness in the message, now is the time to ask clarifying questions. Don’t worry, the only dumb question is the one know you should have asked, but didn’t. By asking, you’ll show your interest and the speaker will respect you for not wasting her time.
Now you know why you don’t listen well and what you can do about it. You don’t listen well if you’re bored, you don’t like the speaker, or you’re distracted. You can fight these problems by looking the speaker in the eye and smiling. You can also improve your memory by listening to the words, observing the body language and emotions of the speaker, and discovering the context of the message. And finally, you can cement your impression of the message by reflecting it back to the speaker and asking clarifying questions.
If you’ll do all these things, you’ll triple your listening memory. Try it for the next thirty days and see if it doesn’t make a difference.
You’ll be glad you did and so will the people who talk with you.