By Kyle Aldous

Here’s a question for you: how many words on average do we consume each day? 10,000, 50,000, or 100,000? In 2008, IBM and Cisco Systems funded and conducted a study to determine this number. They estimate that the average American consumes roughly 100,000 words each day. Each year this means you hear or read roughly 36.5 million words. With the development of social media and constant connection to dialogue that number has likely crept up since 2008. Is it any wonder, then, we are up against fierce competition when it comes to getting our voice heard?

What we’re missing, though, in our bid to get our point across, is interpreting, validating and understanding the data being fed to us. So, in a world where we are all overwhelmed with content how do you stand out? Stop talking!

The issue with many exchanges of information is that the person who is supposed to be listening is instead simply preparing what they’re going to say next. This is where the majority of miscommunication happens, because as you’re thinking about what to say next you are missing out on the nuances of what the person in front of you is saying and, thus, sabotaging a potentially more successful outcome of the discussion.

In our children’s educational development, the ability to listen is key to critical thinking skills; vital when it comes to assessment, then, potentially, at college and, almost certainly, the workplace. This is not a skill that is learned overnight, it is something that is fine-tuned both at school and at home.

Doing Mindset vs Thinking Mindset

Research on motivation by Arie Kruglanski, a social psychologist, and his colleagues at the University of Maryland suggests that there are two distinct motivational mindsets: a ‘thinking’ mindset and a ‘doing’ mindset. Listening garners a thinking mindset, giving the speaker the opportunity to understand what is going on around them. However, by planning a contribution to the conversation, the speaker enters a doing mindset and, therefore, limits critical thinking.

Students’ problem-solving skills both in and out of the classroom will most likely be tested daily. If employing a doing mindset, their initial reaction may be in preparing to solve the problem presented at face value; however, there may also be an underlying issue at the root of the situation that a thinking mindset would pick up on. In assessing by listening, the disease is cured rather than just the symptom.

So, how do we encourage our children to foster a mindset where less is said, stronger understanding is created and, ultimately help themselves be heard in a noisy world?

Remove Distractions

We’re all guilty of it. The screen on our device lights up and we’re instantly drawn to the message we’ve been sent, sometimes to the extent of breaking off conversation with the person we were just talking to. In groups, and no less so at school, it has almost become socially acceptable for one person to be speaking while others are on their laptops or phones only for them to pop their heads up and offer an obligatory laugh or even miss the comment altogether because they were distracted. In a world where everyone is highly connected to their tech, our kids can stand out and become a person of presence by being 100 percent present in their conversations by breaking these habits.

Repeat After Me

Repeating back at least some of what people have said when dealing with important issues is invaluable. It forces the listener to listen carefully to what the speaker has said in order to be able to repeat it back. When what was said is accurately repeated, the speaker feels their dialogue has been taken on board. As a result, they trust the listener’s response more than if they don’t feel they were heard. By repeating it back, the listener also ensures understanding. If something was missed, the listener may find they have trouble actually summarizing what was said, and so they can ask for clarification.

Tell Me More

These three words can save anyone in almost any conversation. When talking with someone, there is almost always an opportunity to throw these three words, or variations thereof, into the exchange. The goal is to open up the opportunity go deeper into the subject matter, to move beyond surface level discussion. This not only strengthens the bond between the interlocutors, but enhances analysis and critical thinking.