Posts Tagged ‘learning’

3 Surprising Reasons You Need To Learn To Listen

Written by Les Dahl on June 15th, 2016. Posted in Sage's Scroll




After an intensive 2-month study, Professor Paul Rankin of Ohio State University reported that 70% of the waking day involved interpersonal communication.

Of that chunk of time,

  • 45% was spent listening
  • 30% involved speaking
  • 16% was engaged in writing
  • 9% was occupied reading. 

That was 1939 and those were college students. Has much changed since then?

Despite the explosion of technology and information, human nature and the basic human needs have changed very little, if at all. Communication is still a major part of our life and listening remains the cornerstone. 

The often-touted benefits of listening are:

  • builds relationships
  • reduces mistakes and misunderstandings
  • resolves conflicts
  • less wasted time
  • saves money.

Those are plausible results, but consider these “surprising” benefits.


1.  Good listening habits earn respect

A sure way to gain respect is to be a good listener. By listening attentively, genuinely and consistently, you show you value people. In return, they will respect you, pay attention when you have something to say, welcome your ideas and look for your feedback.

"One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

(Bryant H. McGill)



2.  With good listening habits you understand

“Faking attention” as one of the worst and most frequently deployed listening habits. Sometimes it is intentional—we’re simply bored. At other times, our mind ‘plays tricks’.

Researchers say our brains are capable of processing 500 words per minute. We can communicate at 250 words per minute. (The average is between 150-200 words.)

Imagine this scenario.

You are in a conversation with a friend. You’re excited about the topic and talking at full speed—250 wpm (words per minute).

They seem to be listening, but something does’t feel right.

Reality check. Your friend’s mind is racing at somewhere between 400 - 500 wpm. You’re speaking at 250 wpm. What do you suppose their mind is doing with the ‘empty mental space’?

That’s right. It’s wandering into daydreams or wrestling with worries lurking in the shadow of their mental landscape. How much do they actually hear? and understand?

Hearing is easy, listening is hard work. Few people refine their listening skills to not only hear but actually understand what is being said. This select few are successful. 

The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.

(Dr. Ralph Nichols)



3.  With good listening habits you learn

(a) You learn things about people.

Knowing about human nature and behavior helps you navigate around hidden shoals—weaknesses, character flaws, personality quirks—that can shipwreck friendship. You learn where open channels of communication flow and move relationships forward.  You learn where and how to ‘dock’ your ideas—say what you really want to say without being misunderstood.

Armed with this knowledge, you communicate with greater success. You don’t take everything personally. You hear people out. You even learn how to agree to disagree.

A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.

(Kenneth A. Wells)


(b) You learn how the people think.

As you listen, you learn how your friend thinks. It’s like discovering their operating system—Windows 10 or MacAir.

Once you know how their mind is programmed, you can ‘synchronize’ your interaction, make necessary adjustments and communicate in a ‘compatible format’. The results are positive and rewarding. 

Listening well and answering well is one of the greatest perfections that can be obtained in conversation.

(Francois De La Rochefoucauld)


(c) You gain knowledge you didn’t have before.

Useful bits of information and nuggets of wisdom are gained with keen listening. Sometimes these gems are hidden in people you least expect. Never underestimate anyone. The janitor or the waitress may have a “piece of information” you need. 

Every person I work with knows something better than me. My job is to listen long enough to find it and use it.

(Jack Nichols)

Without well-honed listening skills, personal achievement and success are confined to the commonplace. Only when good listening becomes a habit will anyone become extraordinary.

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk.

(Doug Larson)



“Listening: Can Ability be Improved”, Journal of Applied Business Research, Vol.6 No.1

“Listening Myths and Misconceptions”, Skills You Need

“Barriers to Effective Listening”, Skills You Need

“Lines of Communication”, Manufacturing Leadership Certificate Program

“Book of Famous Quotes”, < >

Image by Ambro at


Written by Les Dahl on June 18th, 2015. Posted in Education, Learning Solutions, Parenting Strategies


document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">Do you wonder why kids hate school? Why their typical answer to the question is, "Because it's boring!"?

As we began our coaching session, Reggie (not his real name) made it clear that he was bored with school, that he didn't need to study for his up-coming year-end exams because he already knew everything, and that he wasn't pleased that his mother had arranged this session. His question, “How long is this gonna take?” said it all!

I needed to understand the root of his strong feeling about school so I asked, “Why do you hate school?”

“It's boring!” he responded.

“What do you mean when you say boring?” I probed.

“It's no fun!”

Happily, our session ended on a positive note. I deemed it an uneasy victory—I had won the skirmish, but not the war.

Reggie is a bright Fourth Grader whose quick, active mind jumps from one thought to the next and back again. Between thoughts he answers my study questions—he actually does know everything with at least 80% accuracy.

Not only is Reggie's mind flitting like a butterfly from idea to idea, he cannot sit still. He fidgets, squirms and finally gets up out of his chair and moves about the room in perpetual motion. (Yes, Reggie clearly displays ADHD symptoms.)

As I carefully observe Reggie, I think to myself, “Little wonder Reggie is bored at school!”

Here's why.

     1. Children are naturally different.

That's obvious. But in school, children are expected to conform to a singular, standardized mold. There's little room to be different.

Part of Reggie's ADHD “gift” is that his mind works much faster than most of his classmates. He catches on quickly and gets bored waiting for the others to catch up. Reggie acknowledges my prognosis with a wry smile.

     2. Children are naturally curious.

Children love to explore and investigate. But in school, a prescribed curriculum and schedule are imposed upon them. There's little room to spontaneously pursue piqued interest.

Reggie's mind flits from one point of interest to another not so much aimlessly asspontaneously. A study question reminds him of something else—sometimes related to the question, sometimes not. After a brief discussion, he easily returns to the original question and answers correctly.

     3. Children are naturally creative.

Creative expression of their uniqueness and curiosity affirms children's self-esteem. But in school, methodology—appropriate questions and accepted answers—is predetermined.

Is Reggie typical? Not necessarily.

Each child responds differently to the “un-naturalness' of school. But, given the opportunity to be different, curious and creative, children will feel differently about school.

Children thrive when they are encouraged to be responsible, to make choices and to take ownership of their learning process.

Question: Will kids like Reggie ever like school?



Written by Les Dahl on May 17th, 2015. Posted in Uncategorized


document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">The question, “Why do we have to learn this stuff?” is a legitimate question. School work that is little more than 'busy work' designed to keep students occupied and assignments that only reinforce rote learning are not only boring, they are counter-productive. The end result is often demotivated students who strongly dislike school. As parents and educators, we must have a good answer to the question and create learning activities that instill a life-long desire and joy of learning.

Children are dreamers. They see a jet flying high overhead, watch it disappear from view and turn to declare, “I'm going to be an airline pilot when I grow up!”

Next day as they hear the screaming siren of a fire truck and watch the bright red vehicle speeding by with rugged firemen hanging on, they declare, “I'm going to be a fireman when I grow up!”

But just yesterday you wanted to be a pilot,” we remind them

Can't I be both?” they retort somewhat irritated that we limit their future possibilities.

We pass it off as childish fantasy—they'll grow out of it when they step into the real world!

But why?

One of the amazing realities about learning is that you can choose to be or do anything you desire, because you can learn whatever is necessary to achieve the future of your choice.

Learning is a series of gateways, each opening into a bigger, more challenging field. As you master the content of your present field, you can confidently walk through the gate into new territory, knowing that you have what it takes to master the next set of challenges.

A simple example is found in learning math. The journey begins by learning numbers and counting. That skill leads to addition which in turn leads to subtraction, multiplication and division. Mastery of those fields opens the gateway to geometry and algebra. From these fields the gates swing open to physics, chemistry and biology. Any one of these creates a platform of innumerable careers from which to choose a meaningful, satisfying future!

A similar pattern of forward movement and expansion of skill is found in any other learning pathway, if math is not the subject of choice.

Gateway by gateway, field by challenging field, the path leads to a promising future of opportunities. Somewhere along the journey you reach the tipping point and you realize your options are limitless.

Why do you have to learn this stuff?

A world of opportunity awaits you, and you really don't have to limit your future to one option. You can be a pilot and a fireman and anything else you set your sights on!


Image courtesy Gualberto107 /


Written by Les Dahl on April 30th, 2015. Posted in Uncategorized


document.write(" geneva; font-size: 16px;">"Why do I have to learn this stuff? I'll never use it anyway!"

Your children will often give you this argument. Sometimes it is the voice of laziness trying to avoid work that may be challenging or perhaps tedious. Other times it is a sincere question of relevance or context poorly worded. Truth be told, far too much of what we call 'school work' is little more that 'busy work'—something to keep students occupied and out of mischief until the next lesson. (I confess, I'm guilty.)

The question was brought home as I embarked on home schooling our four children.“Just because...” did not satisfy them nor me. So I took up the challenge and began to grapple with the issue: why do my children have to learn this stuff! What really is the essence of learning that motivates us to engage in the process?

In my quest to formulate a good answer to the question, one that was both meaningful and satisfying, I found four. The first—learning activities provide mental fitness exercises—is the subject of this post.

Physical fitness affects our ability to cope with stress. A healthy lifestyle which includes good nutrition, regular exercise and sufficient rest empowers us to manage stress confidently and effectively.


The objective of a gym is to build the body, tone the muscles and develop overall fitness. At times, your classroom is a gym. The lessons appear irrelevant to 'real life experience', just as lifting weights has little to do with most 'real life' jobs. Learning builds the mind, tones the thinking 'muscles' (i.e. neural pathways) and develops mental fitness (i.e. the ability to perform analysis and critical thinking).

Alzheimer's is a dreaded disease. Its horrific grip leaves victims unable to think clearly and helpless to perform simple daily functions. This incurable condition only gets worse and eventually leads to death.

The Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center reports: “Staying cognitively active throughout life—via social engagement or intellectual stimulation—is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.” Engaging in meaningful conversations, reading books and magazines, going to lectures and playing games are simple ways of “staying cognitively active.”

One study investigated the impact of ordinary activities like listening to radio, reading newspapers, playing puzzle games and visiting museums on 700 older people. The result: “After 4 years, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease was 47 percent lower, on average, for those who did the activities most often than for those who did them least frequently.” (Preventing Alzheimer's Disease: What Do We Know?, Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center, NIA/NIH, Sept. 2012/ Updated March 2014)

Is there benefit to learning activities and subject areas that seem irrelevant to real life? More than we realize! Researchers are just beginning to document how important a life-long mental fitness program is to life and happiness!


(Adapted from my book, HOME SCHOOL: WHY BOTHER? available on Amazon and Kindle)

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