Do you think you’re a good listener? We have a questionnaire below to help you assess how good you are. If you’re not sure, read on!

The price of poor listening

Millions of pounds are lost every day in companies simply because of poor listening. In your organisation it may be only thousands, or hundreds, or maybe just twenty or fifty here and there. Whatever the amount, I’m guessing you would be amazed at how much money is lost due to poor listening skills. Consider –

In 2010, it was estimated that 11 million meetings took place in the United States each day (3 billion a year). Respected research estimates that Fortune 500 companies waste an estimated $75 million per year in meetings and much of the waste is due to the staggering cost of ineffective listening.

$37 billion is the total estimated global cost of misunderstanding based upon errors in communication within 100,000-employee companies among 400 surveyed corporations in the US and UK (average cost per company $62.4 million per year). $26,042 is the cumulative cost per worker per year due to productivity losses resulting from communication barriers of which poor listening is major contributor.

Think of how many times you may have misinterpreted instructions, heard a problem incorrectly, or missed out on business opportunities. Poor listening can lead to challenges in relationships, lack of credibility, lost contacts, inaccurate reporting, rework, dissatisfied customers and lowered productivity.

Did you know…?
• It is estimated that more than 50% of our work time is spent listening.
• Immediately following a 10-minute presentation the average person retains about half of what they hear and only one quarter of what they hear 48 hours later.
• 60% of all management problems are related to listening.
• We misinterpret, misunderstand or change 70 to 90% of what we hear.

“Oh, yes. I pride myself on being a good listener”

We all like to think of ourselves as good listeners, don’t we? Well if we’re all good listeners, why then do we so often complain about the listening skills of others? How frequently do we find ourselves talking to someone about a matter which is important to us and, whilst we speak, we are thinking, “This person just isn’t listening to a word I’m saying. Look at his body language. See where his eyes are focusing. How incredibly rude he is. What a waste of time this is. I bet I could say complete gobbledygook and he would still have that look on his face, pretending he is listening to what I’m saying.”

With experiences such as this, how can we be sure that we ourselves are good listeners?

Listening Skills Assessment

Take a moment now to evaluate your listening skills

How do you believe the following people would rate you as a listener – on a scale of 1 to 5? (5 = best)

Yourself _______

Your Customers ________

Your Boss ______

Your Colleagues ______

Best Friend ______

Now add the scores together and plot the total on the spectrum below.

5 – The Brick Wall ———–|————-|————-|———- 25 – The Human Being

How did you do? Are you more like a Human Being or a Brick Wall?

Let’s take this a step further and look at listening habits.

Review the following list of poor listening habits and honestly consider how often you exhibit the tendency. Give yourself a rating as appropriate of an “F” (frequently), “S” (sometimes), or “R” (rarely).

• I pretend I’m paying attention when my mind is drifting off.
• I cut people off or finish their sentences because I know what they’re going to say.
• When someone is speaking to me, I look around the room to see what else is happening.
• I shuffle papers on my desk or start doing some other task when someone talks too long or too slowly.
• When someone is speaking, I plan what I will say next.
• When a person speaks too quickly or uses words I don’t understand, I let it go and listen only for what I do understand.

What do your scores tell you about your listening skills?

What is listening?

Hearing is one thing, listening is another. Hearing is the act of perceiving a sound by ear. Whereas Listening is truly trying to understand another person’s point of view.

Hearing happens passively. If your ears are functioning as designed, you can hear. You don’t have to think. Something happens that causes a noise, and if you’re close enough, you can hear it.

On the other hand, listening requires an active, conscious choice. To listen, you must have a purpose in your head and heart and apply mental effort. You might even think of listening as a task that requires focused attention to get accomplished.

Listening Barriers

Part of being a good listener means having to identify and overcome barriers. Review the following barriers to listening and consider what you would do to overcome them.

• You are in a noisy workspace with visual distractions.
• You are tired and/or stressed and/or in a hurry.
• The person to whom you are talking speaks very quickly or has an accent which is difficult to follow.
• You have pre-conceived expectations about what the other person is going to say.
• The person to whom you are talking uses emotionally charged words or statements.

What can you do during the next week to improve your listening skills?
• What will you do?
• How will that make a difference?
• How will you know if you have been successful in improving your listening skills?


Shirley Huntington and William Wallace
9 March 2020