4 minute read



“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” -  Stephen R. Covey

Most of us believe that anxiety impacts only the person giving the speech or presentation. Studies done by dr. Paul King show that listeners feel anxiety as well. During his research a group of college students were told that they would be asked question after a presentation they were about to listen. The level of their state of anxiety were going up with presentation time running out. But when they took the test it dropped off immediately.  



Dr. King convince us that, the accumulation of information results in “cognitive backlog”. More and more information is getting stuck what means that it cannot be processed and out brain is not able to create necessary connection.  In this case it’s impossible for us to asses, store or recall the information.  As backlog gets bigger, internal pressure rises quickly and we are on a highway to losing all that information.  Information burden increases along with a listener’s anxiety. It can even result in getting frustrated or angry.



We all know that thinking and speaking are very physically demanding activities. Unfortunately, right from the beginning of our educational journey everybody around us underestimate listening. No surprise we end up getting programmed the same way.  



Effective listening is exhausting and demanding as well. It’s hard work. The heart rate quickens, respiration increases, and your body temperature rises. Just like a stress response, it can be physically and psychologically draining. What’s more we are exposed to it for extensive periods of time. Hours of presentations or meeting. Whole days at school. You name it.


First day at work

Do you remember your first day at a new job? Were you listening to presentations or onboarding for a whole day? Couple days? Or maybe you went straight to your new desk and we were trained by a new collage? How did you feel after the day was over? Were you energized, relaxed or ready to go get a beer with your friends? Very unlikely.


Not immediate and not easy

It’s very likely that you felt exhausted. Drained. You needed some quiet time. That’s because you have just experienced cognitive backlog. You have received some many new information that it got stuck in a line. It needed to be evaluated, labeled and stored. And that takes a lot of time. And lot of energy. It’s a process. Don’t expect it to be immediate and easy.


I told you that yesterday!

I perfectly remember how tired I was after first couple days in my every new job. So many new things, skills, people, places. Exhausting. What about next morning? Do you remember a situation when you were asked to recall something from a previous day? I told you that yesterday, right? – have you ever heard that? Well, it’s probably because of the cognitive backlog.  The information didn’t stand a chance to get where it supposed to get.


More is not better

Think about that when you will be teaching your new college at work or when you will get giving another presentation. Or when you will be teaching your kid. More is not always better.  It’s better to study content on two or three occasions for short period of time instead of spending entire day or evening and getting choked by that information.


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