I must say I wasn’t the greatest listener in school.
Information would go in one ear and out the other. This carried on with me through university and into my corporate working life.
As soon as someone spoke something to me I would generally forget moments later. I wasn’t part of much conversation around friends, colleagues and family. Mostly for the fear of saying something stupid and not knowing what to say because I was lost in context.
This fear stayed with me until I started learning about memory techniques.
How the brain works in relation to information
Understanding how the brain works and that information is really just data that is encoded started to make sense. This meant that in order to have something captured in my brain, I needed to first encode that piece of information so I can make better sense of it.
Information that wasn’t encoded was data. This meant that words on their own are first data before they are magically encoded in the brain to be processed to be understood better.
No-one teaches you this!
But here’s the thing: No-one taught me how to encode data to better understand! Especially in the context of listening skills.
Training your memory helps you to encode data. The more you train, the stronger your mental processing. This means listening with full understanding. Not only that, training your memory will also give you the skills to analyse live what is being said and formulate arguments, discussion points and say the “right” thing.
Memory training not only helped my fear of saying something stupid and backing off conversations, but got me into a job where I mostly listen as a coach. I get to practise what I used to fear most on a regular basis and make sure whatever I say has value.
How to quickly practise the skill
Try to visualise the context of what is being said – This is not as easy as it seems so I suggest listening to audio and pausing often to get your mind to create the images. Video is already encoded, so stick with just audio.
When visualising, use your imagination and get creative. The crazier the visual the more memorable it becomes.
Practice for visualisation on random words, numbers, and any data that has not already been encoded into images. Warming up your brain with training will help you get into the listening zone a whole lot faster with better accuracy as well.