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February 18, 2019
Ask ACE

A handy formula to improve your listening

Have a question for ACE? Jim Milliken can be contacted at lifeisaprojectmaine@gmail.com

The Association for Consulting Expertise (ACE) is a nonprofit association of independent consultants who value "Success through Collaboration." The public is welcome to attend its regular meetings to share best practices and engage with industry experts. For more information go to www.consultexpertise.com.

Q: I'm told I don't listen well. How can I improve?

ACE Advises: Listening is the most used but least understood of the communication skills. It also is the least taught and the hardest to do well.

Overcoming the barriers has to start with clearing away misconceptions.

First of all, listening is much more than just hearing. It is not entirely passive — the receiver goes through a process over which he/she has a rising level of control. Learning how to manage the process is the route to becoming an excellent listener.

There is a handy formula for understanding the process: PAED.

1. It starts with Perception; a sound is detected. This is hearing, and is largely automatic.

2. Immediately, the mind compares the sound with what is familiar: Have I heard this sound before? That is the second stage, Association. A good listener does not let that first impression determine the conclusion.

3. The person consciously invokes Evaluation, the third stage. He/she examines the matter, perhaps asks questions and otherwise seeks to test out the impression.

4. Finally the Decision, when the listener determines what to do about the new information.

Obviously, as we go through our daily lives, most of what we hear is familiar, demanding little thought from us. The good listener has learned to remain alert to those situations that require a more careful focus on what is being said, avoiding any tendency to allow first impressions to automatically become conclusions.

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