how to be a better listener

I had the pleasure of attending a terrific presentation made by author Russ McDevitt at a recent meeting of our Toastmasters club in Gimli. Russ is not only a talented author, but a life coach and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) specialist.

Here are the highlights from his presentation:

polishing your communication skills

McDevitt told us that there are three primary ways in which people process information:

1. Kinesthetics: people who communicate via their feelings. Kinesthetics tend to speak slower than others and often look down and to the right as they process information. The largest segment of the population are kinesthetics, with 45% of people falling into this category. If you are kinesthetic, you likely uses phrases such as “I feel that”, “I sense that”, “If I understand what you’re saying …”

2. Visuals: people who are most likely to be enticed by a visual message. Visuals tend to speak more quickly than others and are more likely to look you straight in the eye.  This is the next largest group, with 35% os us falling into this category. We visuals use phrases such as “I see that”, “It’s clear to see that”, “She’s a sight for sore eyes” …

3. Auditories: people who are more enticed by the sounds around them. As far as speaking speed goes, auditories are in the middle. Auditories tend not to make direct eye contact and are more likely to look to the left or right of who is speaking to them. (Occasionally down and to the left as they process information.) Auditories will likely respond by saying “I hear you”, “Sounds good to me”, “That doesn’t sound right to me”, “That’s music to my ears” …

Kinesthetics would likely respond well to receiving samples in the mail that they can touch, and like to feel the texture of goods before making a purchase or commitment, etc.

Visuals likely respond best to television ads or videos as “seeing is believing.”

Auditories let their ears be their guide and would respond best to a message that includes music or sounds to stimulate their thought processes.

Russ McDevitt told us how to be a better listener

R Russ McDevitt

I found it shocking that our choice of words only accounts for 7% of the impact of your presentation. I was equally surprised to learn that body language counts for 55% of the impact we make, and tone of voice impacted the effectiveness of our communications by 38%. So choosing just the right words is not nearly as important when making a presentation as our delivery (body language and tone of voice.) No wonder they say that some salespeople could sell ice to an Eskimo! Some of us are born to sell; others not.

how to be a better listener

Improve your listening skills and try to zero in on which style of communicator your colleague is. If you can quickly identify whether the person you are communicating with is kinesthetic, visual, or auditory, you can tailor your communication style and choice of words to increase your chances of making a connection, sale, or good impression.

Fascinating stuff. Have you been able to determine which one of the three  communication styles best describes you? Your partner? Your intended customer? If you are a salesperson, do you use these techniques when trying to make a sale?

I look forward to the conversation, and invite you back here the week of February 3rd for our next new post.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I researched and wrote Volume I of Chocolatour that won a Readers' favourite Award in 2014. Always enjoy experiencing new destinations and flavours.

35 Responses

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  2. ruthie Davis heels says:

    That is a great tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.

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    ruthie Davis heels recently posted…ruthie Davis heelsMy Profile

  3. Christopher James says:

    I love listening to people talk. So listening has never been a problem for me.

  4. Mediafast says:

    Interesting. This was most informative. I’m always looking for ways to be a better listener and this was very helpful.

  5. This is a great post on how to be a better listener. I thought I was a great listener but i have a ways to go. Thanks a million for sharing this post with us.

  6. Anandakumar says:

    Interesting thoughts. These days in Toastmaster, I wanted to present with minimal or no props; pics; and videos so that I would strive to improve my vocabulary & sentence construction skills. If you have to talk on the phone and explain things to the listener on the other end, this practice will help better.

    In a normal settings (other than above) I have conversed with all three categories of people. I like to converse with the Kinesthetics.

    I would put the visuals under INNOVATOR & EARLY ADOPTOR; the Kinesthetics under EARLY MAJORITY; and the Auditories under LATE MAJORITY category.

    I am a bad listener and need to improve that skills a lot.

    Good I visited this blog.

  7. Becc says:

    It is fascinating stuff. I have read quite a lot on the subject and the information never ceases to amaze me. When we talk, it is crazy to think that the words mean so little in the overall concept of what you are saying.
    Becc recently posted…Its ok to think about meMy Profile

    • I so agree, Becc. As a professional writer, I’ve always put an emphasis on the choice of words to better tell my story. I’m sure that’s still important in the written form, but as we have learned, not so much in the spoken form. Style and delivery are tops!

  8. Adrienne says:

    Hi Doreen,

    Well I’m definitely a visual person although I don’t like commercials. I’m a seeing is believing kind of gal though and prefer being taught through videos unless it’s laid out well in written form.

    I have heard about this before, being laid out this way and of course it makes a lot of sense. I know we’re not all alike in the way we speak, learn or communicate with others. This is interesting though. I haven’t gotten to the point of doing any presentations in front of others yet but I’ll have to keep this in mind because I hope to go that route some day.

    Thank you for sharing what you learned with us and I think we can all learn from this and how we can be better communicators. Especially for us bloggers.

    Adrienne recently posted…How Bloggers Help Bloggers Increase Their IncomesMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Adrienne. Yes, it’s really useful to have this information to help with future presentations. But it is also useful in blogging, as it will help you tailor the appearance and style of your posts to reach your particular audience. Cheers!
      WizardOfWords recently posted…the happiness advantageMy Profile

  9. I’m a visual learner, and so I tend to communicate very visually too. The funny thing though is that I get very distracted by auditory stimulation, so when I’m listening/watching a presentation, I have to block one or the other out in order to concentrate properly. So I find that slides that match the message word-for-word to the communicator are the best way for me to remain engaged. However, I have done a lot of public speaking and I know that many people don’t like that type of matching and think that the verbal communication in a presentation shouldn’t match the exact wording of the slides. It’s a tough balance to obtain.
    Glenda @ Healthy Stories recently posted…How to Use Supermarket Catalogues to Buy Cheaper Healthy FoodsMy Profile

    • Hi Glenda: I generally don’t like to see the visual presentation match the verbal presentation word for word. I prefer the visual to just have the highlights, and the occasional “visual” to keep me stimulated. Interesting how we all relate to different styles of presentations. Makes it hard to please everyone!

      Thanks for dropping in on the blog.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…the happiness advantageMy Profile

  10. Jeri says:

    I’m not sure if I’m more of an auditory or visually motivated listener. Based on your descriptions, I probably veer into the auditory side. As I got better at teaching, I realized just how much of conveying a given message is about body language as it is about the words used. Videotaping myself while teaching was so helpful. I just took a weekend workshop on War Films and the professor was beyond awful in all aspects of the presentation and could stand to learn a lot about communications… which is ironic because he is a communications professor 😉
    Jeri recently posted…Author Interview: Susan P. CooperMy Profile

    • Hi Jeri and thanks for your comment. Yes, in Toastmasters, we often recommend that people record themselves as a learning tool to improve the effectiveness of their presentations because until you SEE how you look when speaking you focus too much on the words themselves and not the delivery.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…the happiness advantageMy Profile

  11. Very interesting. I wouldn’t have thought how little the actual content is compared to the presentation. Thanks for sharing.
    Karen Cioffi recently posted…Blogging and Search Engines – About Pageview StatisticsMy Profile

    • Thanks for dropping in to the blog, Karen. Yes, as writers, we like to think that our choice of words is so important, and critical to the effectiveness of our comm’ns. That may be true in the written format, but in verbal or performance, it is the body language and voice inflection that have much more impact.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…how to be a better listenerMy Profile

  12. Cathy Smolinski says:

    Enjoyable post! As a sales rep who has make it to the top… I can share with you that listening skills are very important. They say you have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason. Asking open ended questions allows your customer to do more talking than you. A poor stereotype of a sales person is “they talk too much”. Well… sure you talk when you are explaining your product but you cannot alwas be the one talking! You must also never assume which I tend to fall into this trap. If you customer says, “I am not interested”, or “Its nice but costs too much”, etc. They are not saying NO to you forever. Find out why they are not interested. Are you trying to pitch something that doesn’t fit their scope? If so, then you didn’t listen well at the start! If it is too much, maybe you didn’t fully explain the cost savings the product/service could offer? Maybe they can buy half now and half later? Or maybe they need to save for it and you need to follow up.

    The blog also suggests using all our senses to communicate and thats true. Everyone learns and absorbs info differently. Some people learn by you telling them a story. While others are visual and learn through videos or brochures. I think most people learn through kinetics, the physical means of trying something, possibly demoing an instrument (very common in my business), or test driving a care, testing a hand cream, etc.

    I encourage everyone to listen a little harder, ask open ended questions, and don’t assume/jump the gun when you get an answer you didn’t want to receive. Unless the person places a restraining order on you or black lists you from entering their building… they still want to buy something from you!

    • Thanks so much for your fascinating response, Cathy. I know you are indeed a true sales professional (and an excellent Toastmaster as well!) so your comments are well-taken.

      I think that your insights are valuable, not just to those involved in sales, but to all of us involved in any kind of negotiations, deliberations, or debate.
      WizardOfWords recently posted…the happiness advantageMy Profile

    • Cathy,
      I did a lot of sales training in the UK and probably my favourite little pearl of wisdom was “Selling isn’t telling, the person in control is the one asking the questions.”
      Sounds like you were right on the button there in your sales.

  13. Very interesting stuff, Doreen. Thanks for sharing. I’m guessing I’m a kinesthetic, but I’ll have to pay attention the next time I’m interacting with someone.

  14. I’m a visual “learner” but it looks like I’m more of a Auditory listener. This was fascinating. My husband is in sales and I can’t wait to show this to him. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Harry Hobbs says:

    Very valid and interesting for writers as well as speakers. I know as writers we need to appeal to all the senses so we must discover our stronger ones and our weaker ones and try to develop the weaker ones. I’ve taken workshops on developing them and remember our teacher sending us to Eatons men’s and ladies’ departments to touch fabrics and write notes on them. The reaction in the store was enough to write a story. one sales clerk thought I was a spy from The Bay I always scored highest in audio and visual. Sensory awareness tests are fun things to do with writers groups and if you belong to one and have never done these tests I highly recommend them.

  16. A.K.Andrew says:

    Wow! That really is interesting. I knew there were differences , but I hadn’t had it spelled out for me so simply before. I’m torn between being Kinesthetic and visual myself. But I will def. try and watch for those properties in others and try and hone my skills for identifying which type people are. Surely even in daily life it would help with communication too.
    A.K.Andrew recently posted…Author in Focus: Ernest Hemingway and the Iceberg EffectMy Profile

  17. Gosh, that was really interesting. I think I’m more kinesthetic followed by visual. I agree with you, that it isn’t so much the words as it is the body language and tone of voice. Who would have thought! If I had known that as an executive, I could have saved myself hours of work on my many presentations. :-)))
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Berry Smoothie RecipeMy Profile

  18. Great information, Doreen. There are only three ways to communicate: words, pictures and actions. If a parent says to a child, “And that’s that!”, her intent will be much more impactful if she slams her hand on the table and says, “And that’s that!” The action says more than the words.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Why #TweetChats Belong in Your Social Media StrategyMy Profile

  19. Linda says:

    Wow. That information shoots holes in the diligence of wordsmiths around the world! Communication is a decidedly complex process. I think my speaking style is far more direct and spontaneous than my writing style. For some reason, (psychological, I’m sure) I seem driven to respond to conversation instantly, fearing the white space that good writing relishes. As a consequence, I’m all talk and not much think. I guess that puts me in the visuals category.

    Now, if I could just slow down long enough to process how others are communicating with me, perhaps I could improve my skills!
    Linda recently posted…Tölting across the land of fire and ice; Part IIMy Profile

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