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Tooting Our Horn

~ Marian was invited by the Global Gaming Women (GGW) organization to present a session on listening at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas September 25. GGW is an organization that was established by the American Gaming Association and supports the development and success of women in the international gaming industry through education, mentorship and networking opportunities. Marian's talk will be, "Effective Communication: Become a Better Listener."

~ We are pleased to announce Marian’s upcoming participation in a Listening Symposium Sept. 15-17, 2013 at the Reynolds Journalism Institute in Columbia, Missouri (based at the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri). The symposium is a gathering of a small, select group of leaders from many professions, including lawyers, police, clergy, therapists, social workers, educators, nurses, sociologists and more, to work together for two days to explore the purposes, practices and power of listening in society, and to learn from each other.

The hope is to tease out the best practices used in each participants’ worlds. How does the cop discern between truth and lie? How does the journalist probe but not judge? How does the therapist work through pain without undermining trust? We will be challenged to practice what we preach: to really listen to one another, even - or especially - when we disagree.

The sessions will be guided in part by Butch Ward, former managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and now on the faculty at the Poynter Institute, a school for professional journalists.

~ Marian is a contributor to a new eBook just released by Bill Corbett, author, keynote speaker and parenting expert, entitled, “Speakers’ Worst Nightmares.” It is a compilation of 41 stories from individuals with varying degrees of speaking experience. All of the stories, many of them quite humorous, were important lessons for the individuals as they developed their speaking skills. Bill just released his new book, “From the Soapbox to the Stage: How to use Your Passion to Start a Speaking Business.”

~ Take a look at this interesting article published online March 27, 2013 at The Glass Hammer under the title: “What to Do If Your Flex Work Arrangement Gets Axed” by Robin Madell ( ). It features Marian's comments with some timely, supportive advice with steps to take should you be faced with a similar circumstance.

~ We here at Listening Impact recently learned that Marian has one of the top 10% most viewed @LinkedIn profiles for 2012. (Copy and paste this link to view our LinkedIn profile ~

Yes, we are proud of this accomplishment. Primarily, though, we are inspired by your commitment to professional growth and honored by your friendship and confidence in our coaching, communication and listening skills.

Archive for January, 2012

Balancing Speaking and Listening

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 @ 12:01 AM Author: Marian Thier

My friend and colleague, Jessica Pena, sent me this management tip from Harvard Business Review, November 14, 2011 by Whitney Johnson:

Listening is a critical, often underutilized skill. But if listening is already your forte, you may need to do more talking. Speaking up is a good way to demonstrate your expertise and gain the confidence of those around you.

Many of us would be amazed that anyone might need to talk more since there’s so little skilled listening that occurs in many a workplace. But then, I bet we can picture meetings in which the same person sits throughout the entire time without uttering a word.

Alas, there’s no indication the person is listening, all we can observe is that the person isn’t talking. So this tip is excellent in that situation. The lack of talking can be interpreted as disinterest, ignorance, fear, slowness, unwillingness, shyness, unconfident, or even being a misfit.

I coached one brilliant, funny and non-verbal Asian, who, when I asked about her reticence to speak in a group, responded, “I grew up being told the duck that sticks out its neck is supper.” That’s pretty darn hard to overcome. We worked for months on techniques to gradually help her to engage. In the process, I discovered that she wasn’t such a great listener either because she was so petrified someone would ask her a question that she neither spoke nor listened.

As she became more comfortable speaking up, her listening acumen also sharpened, and visa versa.

What’s important about this management tip is to balance listening with speaking and talking with hearing. Neither should overwhelm the other. They are integral parts and in service of one another, and both require practice to master.

~ Become a Better Listener ~

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Fusion or Integration in Jazz and Listening

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 @ 12:01 AM Author: Marian Thier

Recently, at a family celebration, I spent time talking with Stanley Jordan, an amazing musician and spiritual man. I’ve known Stanley for a long time, but haven’t had a conversation with him in eons.

I was particularly anxious to talk to him about his new album, Friends. It’s lush, straight ahead jazz that includes some of the best musicians around today. Listen to it for yourself—it’s getting a much deserved following.

Stanley’s not much of a chatter-box, so I didn’t want to usurp his time or impose upon his attention, but he offered that he had studied with Ken Wilber, a Boulder-based modern philosopher. I asked why the interest.

In a very tiny and not well-understood nutshell, fusion indicates that separate entities are put together, or fused, until the original entities no longer exist. For example, jazz fusion isn’t a musical style, instead it’s a collection of various musical styles. In medicine, fused backs were once a series of disparate vertebrae, but when fused, become one strong mass.

Integration, on the other hand, also includes various entities, but they retain their integrity. On Wilber’s website it says, humanity lives with the awareness necessary to compassionately integrate the fragmented and partial perspectives of differing pursuits of the good life. I don’t have a medical analogy other than Siamese Twins who might share a body part, but they remain two different people.

Besides being fascinated by what Stanley was saying about his studies with Ken Wilber, and how they influenced his music, I wanted to know how they pertained to listening. So I briefly explained my work to Stanley and asked what he thought the relationship is.

I don’t remember his exact words, but he said a few insightful things that have stuck with me:

  • Good listeners are probably integrators. They take in words or sounds, but they allow the words/sounds to hold their own meaning, rather than fusing them into a whole new, and maybe different, meaning. I interpreted that to say that a good listener hears what is said and doesn’t layer on personal assumptions that will change the intention or message.  They might add to the information, but they won’t alter it.
  • Musicians don’t need to use words to integrate their playing. They play and play together until their instruments blend. Their mirror neurons fire when they are in sync.
  • Sometimes a musician is the lead, and sometimes the backup, but whatever the position, s/he’s always cognizant of what everyone else in the group is “saying” (playing) so there’s unified, not conflicting, statements.

How does fusion and integration show up for you?

To read an interview with Stanley, read Downbeat Magazine, February 2012. In it he expounds upon the difference between Fusion and Integration and Friends.

~ Become a Better Listener ~

Take the Hear! Hear? Your Listening Portfolio® Assessment NOW!

Maximum Utility for Minimal Cost

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 @ 12:01 PM Author: Marian Thier

What do the art of bargaining and the popularity of sites such as Living Social and Groupon have in common?  Getting the biggest bang for one’s buck. Something has to provide more value than the effort involved to secure it.

I might be stretching the point a bit for people who enjoy bargaining at a bazaar in a far off land. I’ve been told that those people enjoy the haggling process, the game, more than actually getting the possession.  But, for most of us, we love the idea of greater returns on our investment, which defines Maximum Utility for Minimal Cost

So, how does Minimum/Maximum Utility apply to listening? Let me site a situation as an example:

Barbara, Rolph, Maria, and Sergei are in a meeting to decide on whether to expand their line of goods by purchasing items or making their own—the classic make/buy conundrum.

At the start of the meeting, Sergei says, “I have all the figures in front of me and there’s no question that we should buy the items.”

Barbara, almost levitating out of her seat counters with, “Figures aren’t the only thing that we need to make this decision. What about employee morale, brand identity, relationships with local businesses, word-of-mouth…”

Before she can get another thought out, Sergei comes back with more data and facts to support his argument. The two of them just debate while the other two sit in disgust and growing disinterest.

Finally, Maria asks, “You guys, we’re not getting anywhere, you’re wasting everyone’s time and we’re nowhere close to making this very important decision.”

Maria’s comments describe a situation with minimal utility and maximum cost: time, progress, decision-making, collaboration, relationships. Rolph brings them around with, “Obviously, you two have very strong opinions about how we should proceed. How about if we give each of us five minutes to talk, uninterrupted, about what we think is the real problem and propose a couple of ideas about how to address it?”

Everyone agrees and follows the process, which shifts the interaction towards maximum utility and minimum cost. Listening was the lynchpin that caused the shift. Utility soared when everyone paid attention to everyone else—the ping-pong negotiation match was replaced with open listening. Instead assuming their singular point-of-view was well reasoned and right, there was much more and better information on the table to inform their group decision.

The moral of this little case can be seen millions of times a day: listening is cost effective. Also, it takes less effort to listen the first time than it does to re-do mistakes.

When you are in a situation that might have some real ramifications, ask yourself,

How do I get maximum utility with minimum cost?

And to our bargain hunters you might ask yourself what you really want, the object, power, verbal sparring, or conveying respect.

To learn more about your listening style click here to take our short assessment.

NeuroMarketing and Attention

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 @ 12:01 AM Author: Marian Thier
A Head Start with Brainwaves, By Clive Cookson
Financial Times
December 21, 2011 10:31 pm

My (The) half-hour session is entirely painless; the apparatus does not irradiate the brain but passively measures its electrical activity at different frequencies to assess my attention, emotional engagement and likely memory retention of each clip.

My electroencephalography (EEG) session typifies the experience of hundreds of subjects who have their brains scanned every day in laboratories around the world, in the cause of better marketing. As they look at product prototypes, packaging designs and advertising campaigns, neuromarketing experts read their brainwaves to glean insights into their unconscious likes and dislikes, which might not appear through questioning in conventional market research.

My thoughts:

  • Suppose these neuromarketing techniques were applied to listening at work? Since we spend almost half our day at work in listening situations, wouldn’t it be powerful if we all had some device that was constantly measuring attention, emotional engagement and likely memory retention?

   A little too Orwellian you say?  Actually, we already do that, but the device is our    own powers of observation.  People who are trained to pick up signals can tell        who’s here and who’s somewhere else.

  • Why does it seem to be more reliable when a machine (EEG, MRI) measures listening than when a person uses intuition and honed habits to make those determinations?  Research tells us that people yearn for definitive/right answers, and humans can make too many assumptions and mistakes; whereas a machine will provide objective, data-driven results.  I’d love to see a true comparison done at a workplace meeting.
  • Is neuromarketing a flavor of the day, or does it supply solid, valuable information that can be used in positive ways?  Personally, I don’t care if the data are mined to sell people stuff—advertising has always been on the forefront of using new techniques to get to the consumer.
  • But let’s turn the conversation to the transformational uses. What comes first to mind for me is to use it to differentiate teaching that will excite, turn on, engage students.  Can you imagine pairing teaching techniques with listening preferences?

  And then there’s our political systems.  People are protesting around the world       because they want access to decisions, policies, fair rule-of-law, information,         technology, speech, and many more.  Many of the U.S. politicians are out of             touch with their constituencies. If they really want to represent their                           constituencies, they’d use neuromarketing to discover what their people value         and create programs/policies that matter instead of projecting their beliefs, value   systems, and antiquated party lines onto everyone else.

What ideas do you have for positive uses of neuromarketing?

Start Out 2012 with New Research

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 @ 03:01 PM Author: Marian Thier

Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language

By Perri Klass, M.D.

Published: October 10, 2011

Over the past decade, Ellen Bialystok, a distinguished research professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, has shown that bilingual children develop crucial skills in addition to their double vocabularies, learning different ways to solve logic problems or to handle multitasking, skills that are often considered part of the brain’s so-called executive function.

These higher-level cognitive abilities are localized to the frontal and prefrontal cortex in the brain. “Overwhelmingly, children who are bilingual from early on have precocious development of executive function,” Dr. Bialystok said.

Dr. Kuhl calls bilingual babies “more cognitively flexible” than monolingual infants. Her research group is examining infant brains with an even newer imaging device, magnetoencephalography, or MEG, which combines an M.R.I. scan with a recording of magnetic field changes as the brain transmits information.

Differences in Listening Between a Man and a Woman

By Ashley Black, eHow Contributor updated May 23, 2011

Gender differences exist, and scientists are still discovering more differences. Besides being physically different in size, shape and strength, men and women often react differently to medications. Women also have better night vision and have better visual memory while men have better distance vision and depth perception. Are gender differences present in the act of listening as well?

  1. Listening Style ~ According to Larry Barker and Kittie Watson, authors of the book “Listen Up,” men and women typically employ different listening styles. Men are more likely to be action-oriented listeners, which means they focus on listening to information pertinent to the task at hand. Action-oriented listeners have little patience for speakers who ramble off topic or include unnecessary details. Women are more likely to be people-oriented listeners. They connect with the emotional message and undertones of a conversation and are more concerned with the occurrence of the conversation than with the pertinent information discussed.
  2. Response Style ~ Men and women in listening roles during conversations tend to express their responsiveness in different ways. Women often interject with small acknowledging remarks such as “yes,” “I see,” and “mm-hmm” to show the speaker that they are actively listening and processing the contents of the conversation. Men tend to listen silently, interjecting sparsely and usually only to ask clarification. The difference in response style can cause women to assume that men aren’t actively listening to them in conversations, while men tend to think that women over-listen.
  3. Brain Activity ~ The difference in listening habits of men and women is more than just perceptual. A study by Dr. Micheal Phillips, a neuroaudiologist at the Indiana University School of Medicine, found gender differences in the brain activity of men and women. Brain imaging scans showed that the left brain hemisphere of men in the study was activated while listening, while both hemispheres were activated in women. This data suggests that there is a physical difference in listening between men and women.
  4. Listening Ability ~ Despite all the research targeted at dissecting gender differences in listening, there is little to no evidence to suggest that members of one gender are better listeners than members of the other. Men and women listen equally well. Listening ability appears to be more due to individual differences and circumstances than due to gender differences.

What’s your experience that does/does not validate this research?