TORTOISEMisty Haggard-Belford is a great example of a listening leader who although inundated daily with multiple messages, thoughtfully takes advantage of her thought-speed advantage while listening.  Misty is a business owner and adjunct college professor and has recently been elected to the Brevard County (FL) School Board.  Misty is focused, works hard, and prides herself on the positive listening habits she has developed over the years.   “Because I am willing to take the time to listen effectively, I probably have greater access to more information than most people, because people are willing to share.  I also think people tend to seek me out and look for my leadership because of my listening habits.  In addition, when I take more time and respond appropriately, more consideration seems to be given to my feedback.”

For more than 50 years, technology has existed to “compress or speed up speech.”  Research indicates the average person can listen and comprehend up to 400 words per minute without substantial loss of comprehension.  That is nearly three to four times faster than the average person speaks. Most individuals speak at a rate between 125 and 180 words per minute, averaging around 160 words per minute.  Thus the average listener has “extra” time to either waste or utilize.  If you listen at the rate of a rabbit while the speaker speaks at the pace of a turtle, it becomes easy to waste your listening energy and your precious thinking-time advantage.  Listening leaders do not waste it, they use it. 

Poor listeners loaf when they could be listening more effectively.  They are not activated and do not use the thought-speed/speech-speed advantage well.  They daydream.  In addition, poor listeners buy into the myth of multi-tasking and attempt to focus on multiple agendas.  They know they can think faster than others speak, so they try to focus on several things.  They get bored and often go off on mental tangents while they wait for the speaker to catch up.

On the other hand, listening leaders have developed a variety of strategies to stay with the pace of the speaker and not drift off.  Among other things, they evaluate, anticipate, review, and summarize (EARS).   In addition, they Plan to Report Back (PTRB).  Listening leaders identify and make a personal commitment to share the essence of what they listen to, even if it is whith themselves.  They take notes.  They question and clarify.  In short, they do whatever it takes to use the time on their hands and mind to stay with the speaker, capture greater information, and glean deeper values.   In the tortoise and hare world of speaking and listening, it is the classic case of use it or lose it.  You can use it to your advantage and profit, or not.

LISTENING PAYS POINT: It takes hard work to be an effective listener.  The Tortoise always wins!

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