How Much Time Does the Average Adult Spend in Conversation

How Much Time Does the Average Adult Spend in Conversation

Are You Really Listening: Hearing vs. Listening

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Hearing vs. Listening

Why Hearing Is Different from Listening

According to an Ohio University study, the average adult spends about 70% of their waking hours communicating in one form or another. Of that time, 9% is spent writing, 16% reading, 30% speaking, and 45% listening. With 45% of our communication time spent listening, it is critical that we learn how to listen effectively in order to reap the full benefits from this. Most people assume that listening, unlike the learned skills of reading, writing and speaking, is a natural activity… one requiring minimal effort by anyone without physical impairment. However, it’s not that simple because listening is a complex activity of both physical and emotional skills.

Hearing is Naturally a Passive and Involuntary Activity

Anyone with normally functioning ear and brain activities will involuntarily hear sounds of a certain intensity. However, we do exercise control over the attention given to the sounds we hear. The person who lives beside a train track may say they never hear the trains. They do in fact hear them, but their nervous system is so accustomed to the sound they can choose to tune it out subconsciously… This is possible because that person controls their thought processes and can choose whether or not to listen.

We all know that it’s relatively easy to employ selective hearing if we’re thinking about something else, ultimately tuning out sounds around us. Even when we really try to listen to someone, our minds often wander despite our good intentions, making it easy to miss much of what was said.

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The Physiological Reason

The physiological reason our minds wander, even when we try to listen, is because the human brain is capable of processing words at a much higher speed than a person is able to speak. The average rate of speech for an American is about 125 words per minute; the human brain can process about 800 words per minute. While a speaker’s words enter our brain at slow speed, we continue to think at high speed. So, we have plenty of time to absorb the words we hear and still think of other things at the same time. At first, we can absorb everything the other person is saying, despite our private mental sidetracks. Unless we make a conscious effort to continue to listen, our private sidetracks tend to take over. Before we know it we’ve missed some of what is being said because we were consumed by our own thoughts.

The Emotional Reason

The emotional reason listening is more difficult than simply hearing concerns the nature of those private mental sidetracks. Curtailing them requires energy, discipline, concentration, and motivation to exert an effort of that intensity. Our motivation is determined by our attitude toward the speaker and their message. Essentially, by how much we care about them. We can’t control the physiological fact that our minds are capable of absorbing words at a much higher speed then we can speak. However, if we care enough about the information the speaker is conveying – or if he or she as a person is important enough to us – we will make the mental and emotional effort necessary to keep our minds clear of extraneous thoughts and truly listen.

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Since hearing is one of your most important senses, you should treat all hearing problems very seriously. Nowadays there are many great options to treat hearing loss, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or other hearing conditions. For professional care and treatment go to, so you can be fully engaged in all of life’s best moments again.

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buy hearing aid batteries online? Check out the hyperlinked site for those resources.

Active Listening Exercise

To become aware of how intently you must concentrate to really listen to another person, try this little exercise with one or several other people. You can choose any topic for discussion.

  • Before each of you responds to another person, summarize what the other person has just said without using notes.
  • Be particular about the way the other persons summarize what you said. Don’t let them off easily simply because you’re eager to continue going through the exercise.
  • Was it difficult to listen to others in the group? If so, why?
  • Did you have trouble formulating your reply and listening at the same time? Why?
  • Do you feel that others were clear in their summaries of the message you conveyed?
  • How can you tell when other members of the group are listening and when they’re only half listening?
  • Did certain members of the group listen more closely than others? Why?

Based on this experience, list speaker’s behaviors that make it easy to listen to them and behaviors that make it difficult to listen. Communication is always two-way. There must be a sender and a receiver. Working to get better, more deliberate and disciplined at one skill will undoubtedly make you better at the other.

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For more information about active listening, check out our White Paper,
“Connecting Body Language with Active Listening.”

How Much Time Does the Average Adult Spend in Conversation


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