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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Experiential Listening

Communication is an imprecise process – no matter how much effort and innovation we may put into choice of words, method of delivery, and focus on key points. Try as we will, the full transfer of knowledge from our mind to the listener happens only in the Vulcan Mind Meld. Typically a just a portion of what is said is actually received by the listener and a fraction of that is retained.

An analogy of how the mind processes new information that I like is of a mail sorting station full of pigeonholes for similarly addressed letters. When new information is received, the mind looks for bins of similar items to authenticate and store it. No bin of similar information but holds some interest – the mind retains it for a period of time as a data point; no interest: no processing. As additional data points are received, the mind may assign a bin for the topic. If not, the data points will be pushed aside for other active thoughts and ideas.

To illustrate - think back to the 1990's and the Y2K issue – when the issue was first mentioned there was little reaction or interest. Over time, with repeated mention and additional interpretation of the impact, it became a significant element of the coming of the millennium. To the mind it went from a data point to an issue.

As we listen, we are processing the information based on what we have been exposed to earlier – through reading, conversation, events, observation, and doing. When we actually do a task or project, we learn on several levels, including how skill and experience can influence an outcome. When I wanted to play tennis, I read a number of books about basics, strategy, and tips from the pros – but truly learned about the game once I stepped on the court to play.

When we listen through the amplification of our own experience, we deepen our understanding of the topic and benefit from the experience of the speaker as conveyed by their story.

Building a website, writing an article, making a table, or trimming a shrub provides valuable 'doer' experience to add to the current body of knowledge. Doing will broaden your perspective on a topic and will make you a more effective listener and learner.

While you may speak from experience, the listener who hears through their experience gets a richer benefit from the information.

Doesn't it make sense to seek projects and activities that expose us to new experiences – to keep current and to learn new things? Learning by doing is a requirement for the New Normal.

How has experiential listening helped you master a topic?


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