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Why are we so bad at speaking to each other?
When I first started podcasting, I was forced into high-level conversations, constantly.
I realized very quickly that I was conditioned to approach each conversation like a tennis match.
Guest asked a question, I responded.
Back and forth.
Serve and return. Shallow questions, shallow responses.
No depth or value in each chat.
This is the sad truth of how most of us communicate.
We listen to respond, not to understand.
“Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self.” — Dean Jackson
The higher quality your listening/communication skills, the better you are in:
- Life in general
Net take away.
It’s important and we all (aka. most of us) suck at it.
I’ve gotten a lot better.
It hasn’t been easy, but these are 5 of my favorite frameworks that have helped me listen better and changed how I think about communication.
- The Ladder of Inference (Bias).
We often jump to conclusions when communicating without considering all the facts and assumptions that influence our thinking.
This leads to misunderstandings, conflicts, and poor decisions.
Source: Designing Regenerative Cultures
To avoid this, we need to climb DOWN the ladder of inference and examine each step of our reasoning process.
This is a deadly ladder that leads to massive bias and serious limits amazing communication and conversation.
2. The Five Whys.
This is a simple way to go deeper.
Ask “why” (5 times) until you find the root cause of a problem or question.
- It reveals hidden assumptions and beliefs.
- It avoids superficial solutions.
Be curious and non-judgmental and keep pressing until you get to where you need to be.
3. Affective Frame
A strategy teachers use with students.
When you’re aware of why you’re invested in the conversation, you’ll care more (and you’ll listen better).
We can drift and lose focus — especially in longer conversations (regardless of our how good our intentions were going in).
Constantly bring yourself back to the motivation you had for starting the conversation in the first place.
You’ll notice that it’s easier to pay attention for extended periods of time.
4. Signal vs. Noise:
Signal: The core message or idea that you want to convey or receive.
Noise: Anything that distracts, confuses, or dilutes the signal.
We’re not just bad at listening, we’re also bad at conveying our own thoughts.
This leads to conversation chaos. — Be clear and concise.
- Use simple words and sentences.
- Avoid jargon and filler words.
This will allow the other party to easily focus on one idea/topic at a time.
Compounded (multi-point) questions or convoluted thoughts lead to messy and prolonged back and forth.
5. The Pareto Principle.
We do not need to cover every single topic that’s relevant every single time we communicate.
Pareto principle tells us that 80% of the results come from 20% of the activities, tasks or ideas.
As communicators — we have a bad habit of re-hashing 80% of the items that really produce 20% of the results, as opposed to the inverse.
This happens because the 20% that does the 80% is the difficult work, the hardest activities, the deepest, most thought provoking questions.
Time is limited.
We only have so many hours and minutes in a day to communicate with others in order to get the thing done.
- Spend time discussing the hardest parts of the project.
- Have the uncomfortable conversation.
- Ask the questions no one else will ask.
That’s how you make each conversation count.
See, most people think they’ve mastered listening because we have two ears.
Listening is not a passive act; it’s a skill. It’s a muscle that needs regular exercise.
Neglect it, and it weakens.
Train it, and it strengthens.
Put in the reps.
Listening well is also one of the most undervalued networking tools.
When you listen, you become a magnet.
People are drawn to those who make them feel heard.
It’s like a superpower.
Think about it.
When was the last time someone really listened to you?
Not just nodding while scrolling through their phone.
But really, truly listened?
Felt good, right?
That’s the feeling you’re giving others when you listen.
Some of my most valuable business relationships didn’t start with a pitch.
They began with a conversation where I listened.
Active listening led to understanding.
Understanding led to trust.
Trust led to collaboration.
The average human speaks at about 225 words per minute.
But we can listen at up to 500 words per minute.
There’s a gap filled with potential for understanding, connection, trust.
Take advantage of that gap.
Every single positive thing I’ve received in my life, I can attribute to listening well.
Listening well is the key to unlocking doors you never knew existed.
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