Blah. Blah. Blah.One of the most frustrating things that I experience in life is to be in a meeting or on a plane or in a restaurant – and have someone blathering away non-stop and totally oblivious that no one really cares what he or she is talking about.
You’ve experienced it, I know.
That’s why I was grateful to our Veritus Group colleague Diana Frazier when she pointed me to this fascinating article on listening, written by Dick Lee and Delmar Hatesohl of the University of Missouri.
Here are the big points:

  • Many of us spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication. Of that time, we spend about 9 percent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and 45 percent listening.
  • Even though listening is the communication skill we use most frequently, it is also the skill in which we’ve had the least training.
  • You think faster than someone else can speak. Most of us speak at the rate of about 125 words per minute. However, we have the mental capacity to understand someone speaking at 400 words per minute.
  • This difference between speaking speed and thought speed means that when we listen to the average speaker, we’re using only 25 percent of our mental capacity. We still have 75 percent to do something else with. So, our minds will wander.
  • Studies have shown that immediately after listening to a 10-minute oral presentation, the average listener has heard, understood and retained 50 percent of what was said. Within 48 hours, that drops off another 50 percent to a final level of 25 percent efficiency.
  • In other words, we often comprehend and retain only one-fourth of what we hear. We all want to be more than 25 percent efficient. It’s not difficult to see the many problems inefficient listeners can create for themselves and others. Poor listening causes us many personal and professional problems.

Go to the article to read the ten worst listening habits. You will recognize most of them.
There is no doubt that listening is not easy. But it is a critical and necessary skill to be successful in major gifts. (Tweet it!)
Jeff, our team and I have been with MGOs who just cannot stop talking. It may be a habit or nerves, or just not knowing what to do to fill up the silence. Whatever it is, it is not good.
One thing I regularly do in every conversation I am in – on the phone, in person, even over email – is to say to myself: “Richard, stop talking and listen.” I literally do that. Sometimes, I cannot help myself and I step in and start talking at times I shouldn’t. And later, I regret it. You know what I am talking about. That’s why this listening thing is a not only a skill but also a discipline. You have to make yourself do it.
Take an inventory on how you do in this area. Then take steps to become a better listener, so that your caseload donor enjoys being in your company.