• Jim Young

What's Your Listening Percentage? 50%? I bet it's way less...


I heard some amazing statistics on listening in a podcast today. It was on the Coaching for Leaders podcast, hosted by Dave Stachowiak, which I highly recommend. Dave routinely has great guests and the content is fabulous. Last week he interviewed Oscar Trimboli on Deep Listening.


In case you don't have the time to listen to it right now - oh, wait ... you should. Because it's about listening! Ok, sorry. I had to do that. But here's a bit of what stood out for me, oddly enough in numeric format:

  1. Only 2% of people are taught how to listen.

  2. Executive leaders spend around 80% of their time listening.

  3. Humans typically speak at 125-175 words per minute. That seems really fast until you consider...

  4. Humans can listen to around 400 words per minute and the brain can process something like 900 words per minute. (Imagine if I could type that fast? This blog post would be done.)

  5. If you math that up, our 900-wpm brain has something like 85% extra capacity beyond what that person in front of us is saying.

  6. Conversely, we have 8-9 times as many brain cycles that are humming along for each word we say. How often do we end up saying what we really mean the first time the words come spilling out of our mouths? Maybe 10 - 20% of the time? More if we are really slowing things down and being intentional, which for many of us is a rarity given the fast pace at which we are expected to work?

This research makes me happy. And I'm just being honest here by claiming that in an extremely self-interested way. Why? Because in many respects coaching is all about listening.


How often do you get to have the experience of a person sitting with you, fully present to listen to what you are saying? Taking that one step further, how about when that person is super focused on listening to help you understand what you mean?


Wait, huh?!? What are you saying? Exactly. What. Are. You. Saying. Does it match what you are experiencing or feeling or even thinking?


Go back to those stats above. If our brain is humming along at 900 words per minute and we speak at, say, 150 words per minute, how often do our spoken words catch up with our thoughts? (Let's not even add in the scenario in which you're having that important conversation in a hallway as you move from one meeting to another. Sheesh!)


So often I hear clients, friends, colleagues, and other people in my life have that moment where they say, "Wait, actually what I meant was..." Or maybe it's, "The really important part of that is..." Those statements typically come after a follow-up question I ask to something they said. The question might be as simple as "What else?"


Quick aside: There are some funny videos out there about coaches. Mmmm...


While those videos poke lots of fun at the type of questions a coach might often ask, the serious side they intentionally leave out is that professional coaches are trained to listen in ways most people do not. In Oscar Trimboli's talk on the podcast I mentioned above, he notes multiple levels of listening, that include "Progressive Listening", in which the listener's outside perspective (and good questions!) helps the speaker arrive at new insights.


I bet even your dog would want that kind of listening! I know I sure would!!


Want to have a conversation with one of the 2% who are trained to listen to you? Want to learn more about listening more effectively?


Get in touch - I'd love to listen to what you are saying: connect@thecenteredcoach.com


#coaching #listening #leadership

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