Every communicator's goal should be to reduce the "Blather-Gather differential," the difference between:
- Your brain's ability to process information (500-800 words per minute)
- How much info your brain actually takes in when listening to someone (maybe 20-30 WPM of the 120-150 WPM that people speak at).
One excuse for having such dismal Blather-Gather differentials is most of us aren't formally trained on active listening.
But journalists are.
Which brings us to Kate Murphy.
In her book, You’re Not Listening, she provides some pro journalist tips for being better active listeners. Here are 3 of my 5 favorites from my post on the topic:
1. Grab your imaginary microphone.
To stoke your curiosity, keep you focused, and get you asking better questions, pretend you’re a reporter who needs to write a magazine article about what the other person is trying to tell you.
2. Give yourself a steady assignment.
Whatever gibberish the other person may spew at you, Murphy advises trying to come away with answers to the same three questions:
- Why is this person telling you this?
- What does it mean to them?
- What can I learn from this?
2. Lead with better questions.
- Interrogating questions that size people up rather than get to know them—e.g., "What do you do for a living?"
- Leading questions that rob people of their stories—e.g., "How are you enjoying this awesome Consider This so far?"
- Appraising "Why?" questions that make people feel the need to defend themselves, like, "Why are you reading this?"
Get in the habit of using every ace reporters favorite non-question:
Tell me about…
Speaking of which, can you tell me about your opinion on this style of Consider This where I relay my favorite practical ideas from books I read?
I want to make these emails as useful as possible to you, so I promise to listen to whatever you have to say.
And if you want more listening tips, check out the full post: