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People Can’t Solve Complex Problems in Life Because They Ignore This Basic Skill

People Can’t Solve Complex Problems in Life Because They Ignore This Basic Skill

How often have your words been completely misinterpreted? Or how often have you heard one thing, while an entirely different thing was said in the first place? Chances are – many times. Why does this happen? This is so as many if not most of us, are bad listeners. Listening is an art that makes for happy relationships – be it at home or at work for if we misinterpret what is being said then we enter a vicious cycle of misunderstandings, fights, and heartbreak down the road…

You May Want to Deny It, But 90% of Us Are Poor Listeners

Experts say that as much as 90% are not good listeners and the reason that is so is simple. We speak at the rate of about 125-150 word per minute, but our brains can process up to 600 words per minute. So there is literally a brain lag between what is being said and how fast we can process it. Which is why we easily get distracted when we listen.

Also, the more we work and multitask at the same time, the worse our listening gets. In fact, management consulting company Accenture conducted a research on 3,600 professionals from 30 countries and found that people found it more and more difficult to listen carefully while they doing many different things at the same time. [1]

9 Common Barriers to Effective Listening That Create Complex Problems in Life

The art of being an effective communicator, be it at home or work doesn’t just come from effective talking but also from effective listening. You have to listen to what the other person is saying and then accordingly, but not instantly, react to that… Let’s talk about the common barriers that hinder effective listening, and what we can do to change that to make us better listeners. [2]

Law of Closure: We Fill in the Gap in What Others Say With Our Own Experiences or Assumptions

Say someone is talking to you about their experience of a jungle safari – amidst their long-winded tale of adventure; you switch off and start thinking about your own experience of the same and basically tune out of what the other person is saying. The result? You missed out on their experience and filled in the gaps with your experience – letting you have a rather incorrect picture of what had actually happened to the talker. This is the law of closure, where we tend to fill in any gaps in what others are saying, with our own assumptions or experiences – which leads to an incorrect conclusion of it all.[3]

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The obvious solution is to really listen to what the other person is saying and keep your own experience aside for another day’s story – if you feel you are getting distracted, ask a question or two…

Law of Field: We Easily Get Distracted by the Noises Around Us

When you are listening or trying to listen to someone, it’s easy to get distracted by all that’s around you and start thinking about all that. Say your boss is giving you a set of assignments to do but not in a closed room sans the distractions. So while he’s listing out what needs to be done with instructions on how to do it, you are distracted by the ringing phones, the multi-conversations around you, a sales pitch going on just near you. This means you are likely to miss out on what was being said and inadvertently do your work incorrectly or leave it incomplete – making you a bad listener in the process.

The solution is to ask the talker to move the site to a closed room and then you listen and take notes to make sure nothing important slips away.[4]

Selective Listening: We Only Listen to What We Like to Listen

Many times, we believe what we want and get attached to our beliefs as well. Meaning we become rigid in our principles. What happens then is that when any conversation goes against our principles or beliefs, it gets filtered out. Say you are on a weight loss program and are skipping carbohydrates. You believe this to be healthy but others may have a different viewpoint that you may be missing out on essential vitamins and minerals when you do so… But when they talk to you about this, you basically stop listening and end up missing out on some valuable advice or information; you might wish you had listened to, at a later stage.

The solution is to be a tad more open-minded and at least listen to other viewpoints, and then make an informed decision about the step you are going to take.[5]

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We Get Stuck at a Particular Point and Forget About the Whole Story

Sometimes, when something has been said, we get so engrossed in one point that our mind tends to stay around it and misses the current conversation happening around us. It could be something interesting, shocking or even difficult to comprehend. Say at an annual meeting, the company announces a withdrawal of a benefit, in order to cut costs. Say that benefit was something great enough to keep you holding onto that job. Gasp! You will now keep thinking about this point, picking at it in your head, and miss all that came after that shocking announcement. Even if the company announced bonuses or a new benefit – in your head you are still mulling the same and going through the motions of listening, without actually listening…

Shake off that wandering thought process and get the whole picture right, before you do something about it.[6]

We Become Judgmental and Shut Our Ears Too Early

So sometimes, we just don’t like what has been said, or the way it was said. I remember once when we are at a two-day soft skills training trip, that the speaker made a random comment about an outfit she thought was rather dowdy, without pointing anyone out – something very close to what I was wearing. Now, this is the point where I kind of stopped listening to what she had to say because I did not like her views – thus I judged her to be an ineffective speaker and spent the rest of the 20-minute session doodling away in my notepad. Did the speaker miss out on anything? No. But did I? Yes.

What I should have done is put my resentment aside, and listening to what all she had to say – I might have learned something new about dressing etiquette for sure. [7]

We’re Mesmerized by the Charm of the Speaker and Forget What They Say

What if the speaker who is talking is the best-looking person you ever met or saw? Then very often, our brains get so distracted by the charm and the pleasing visual imagery that we see, that we just concentrate on that and don’t actually listen to what is being said. What if the speaker is wearing a dress that we so wanted to buy but couldn’t find in our size? Then our mind might just get so distracted by thoughts of that dress that we’d simply stop listening to what is being said.

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The solution is to stop judging a book by its cover – listen to what is being said because that is what you are there for.

We Fail to Go Beyond the Literal Meaning of What Is Said

Again, you don’t always have to take things literally. Many times, we say one thing but mean it in a different way entirely – at this point in time, it is for the listener to take things in the right spirit – and not in the literal meaning of the words. If you as an employee are asking for leave, and the crabby boss sarcastically gives you the go ahead, citing that actually, you should be the boss – is the applied-for leave actually granted? No – this is a cue for you to apologize and backtrack, or if the need is urgent explain the need to your boss and plead your case again.

Literal is not always true – you have picked the emotional cues in what is being said as well.

We Multitask and Mistake Hearing for Listening

We are often doing so many things together, that we might hear what is being said but don’t listen to it at all. Say your spouse is making a complaint about him or her doing the lion’s share of work at home and while you are hearing the words, you are not really listening to the pain and angst behind it… What is going to happen then? You will not work out a solution simply because while you heard the words, they didn’t really register at all. The problem is merely going to snowball into a bigger one.

The solution is to keep those phones, laptops and TV remotes aside and actually listen to what is being said – and then offer a helping hand when you can. [8]

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We Can’t Wait to Draft the Instant Response in Our Minds

Again, many a time, we are in such a hurry to be the first to respond to a question being asked, especially when in a group – that we don’t really listen to the question and respond to what we thought was asked instead. Thus we end up playing the fool. We get so busy in formulating a reply or an instant response that we limit our listening and start thinking instead and very often miss the gist of what was being said.

The solution is to first listen, understand and then respond to it if a response is needed in the first place. For all you know, the question being asked was a rhetorical one.[9]

When we are listening, we have to keep our mind free and focused on what is being said, keeping the distractions and the mind wandering at bay. To be an effective worker or a caring human being – you have to improve your listening skills to understand the people around you and to make sure that you don’t take what they said in the wrong sense. Just open your ears, mind, and heart and listen…

Reference

[1] Fast Company: New Research Shows We’re All Bad Listeners
[2] Ian Brown Lee: The 8 Principles of Effective Listening
[3] CNX: Gestalt Principles
[4] The Law of Distraction & Interruption: The Law
[5] SA Matters: Selective Listening Can Be A Barrier
[6] Boundless: Enhance Your Listening Skills
[7] Zen Habits: A Simple Method To Stop Being Judgmental
[8] Skills You Need: Ineffective Listening
[9] US Department of State: Active Listening

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Rima Pundir

Health, Wellness & Productivity Writer

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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