Cover Story: "Put your ears on"

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Tuesday most of us head back to work.  And if you're like most people there's a good chance sometime soon you'll have to sit through meeting.  You're hearing what he or she is saying, but you're not listening to the message.

Eighty-five percent of what we know we've learned by listening.  Problem is most of the time we're not listening.

We were taught in school to read and write but no one teaches you how to listen.  And the man you're about to meet believes it is a learned skill.

In this era with companies are trying to do more with less some are finding his techniques teaching people how to listen are helping them improve the bottom line.

We listen all the time to the radio.  To the world around us.  To each other.  But are we really listening to what we're hearing?

Bo Boylan believes we're not.  "Very few of us have actually learned how to listen," he says.

Boylan came to this realization five years ago when he was preparing to enroll his son in school.

Doctors diagnosed his five-year old with the equivalent of "hearing dyslexia."

He likens it to a cursor on a computer when the hour glass comes up and you're waiting for the information to process.

In "hearing dyslexia" the information gets stuck.  In his son's case- words weren't carrying meaning.

"The difference between hearing and listening.. listening is where we actually assign meaning to the sounds that we actually get that's coming to us. So it's a learned skill," says Boylan.

Techniques he developed for his son to hear he's teaching companies all over the country.

T.J. Eberle is president and CEO of Nouveon, a management consulting firm in Charlotte.

"One of the things that we've adopted very much for we call to be in the moment and to be in the moment and to be fully present is the only way to be able to listen," Eberle says.

In other words- listening fully and not just as we often see in the political area waiting for our turn to speak.

"If people spent more time listening with the intent of understanding versus the intent of responding we'd have much more effective communication. We'd have fewer mistakes.. we'd have fewer misunderstandings."

Boylan developed a curriculum and a website  (what we were told to do as kids) and now speaks to executives and companies all over the country.

Pat Riley president of the Allen Tate Companies included.  He says at a time when multitasking phoning, texting and tweeting is at a fever pitch learning effective listening is vital.

Says Riley, "Now more than ever is that is becoming the norm and I don't see that pendulum is moving the other way anytime soon. In fact, it's probably getting shorter and shorter and shorter. We call that productivity. I don't know if that's true but the fact is we better become much better listeners."

Motivation has to be there.  While most of what we learn we gain through listening we don't do a very good job at listening.

And those meetings we all have to go to- experts say we remember only about 25% of what we hear.

So how do you become a better listener? How do we communicate better?

Know how people process information. Are they analytical, visual, like to be entertained?  And try to communicate that way with the other person.

Also helpful to know how you like to receive information, what your technique is.  You can take listening assessments to find out your style preference.

Boylan hopes listening techniques can be taught in schools.  There's talk of it being included as part of the federal government's program, "No Child Left Behind."

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