Posted Leave a commentPosted in 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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Posted Leave a commentPosted in 7 minute read

Tip of the ice berg

Very soon you are going to sit at your Christmas table and spend time with your family. You will probably have to answer some of the same annoying or judgmental questions as a year before. What’s even worse you might be the one asking them. Asking those kind of question is just the tip of the bad conversation ice berg. This ice berg is actually able killing our positive mental state. Can you recall a situation when you were felling really great, you started a conversation and very soon you were felling angry and upset?


Conversations habits

Just like in any other aspect of life we all make mistakes during our conversations. But can we improve our conversation skills? If you know me at least a little bit already you know this question shouldn’t even be here. Of course, we can get better and improve them. It might take you a while to change the conversation habits that you have developed through your life but it is very possible.

There are some very common conversation sins we all can avoid during this coming Christmas. With a little self-reflection and self-awareness, you can avoid the death of your positive mental state from those bad conversation.


Adding value

But first you need to answer one question. What’s the purpose of any of your conversations? Not any given conversation, your conversation. Do you want to get or give some information, some kind of a feedback? Do you want to state your point of view or get something, straight? Do you want to make someone feel better? Maybe it’s about connecting with someone or strengthening that bond? Whatever it is there is one common reason for all that. In my opinion all conversations and interactions are about adding value. Adding and getting information, points of view, feedback, emotions, connection. Most people don’t even realize it and others keep forgetting about it.


Conversation narcissist

We know that in general conversations are about adding value and now it gets really tricky. Because most of people think it can only be done by talking. It’s a very slippery slope because there is a whole spectrum of ways to add value in a conversation besides that. If you are an extravert it’s very easy to become a conversation narcissist. A conversation narcissist love nothing more than to talk about himself.  The only reason they ask the other person a question like, “How was your weekend?” is so they can circle it back around to them again, “that’s nice…let me tell you about what happened to me…”. They rarely inquire seriously about the other person or ask follow up questions.


Wait to hear my story

I’ve been guilty of this one on more occasions than I wish to remember. Everyone involved in a conversation should get their time in the spotlight. Don’t interrupt someone when they are telling some anecdote or their view on what you are discussing to divert the attention back to yourself. Don’t hijack their story about work before it’s finished, to share your best work anecdote. Find a balance between listening and talking.



How often do you find yourself just paraphrasing or repeating what the other person said? If someone says, “That movie was great!” do you say, “Yeah, that was a cool movie!”?  When we enter the parrot mode we act like and think we are having a conversation, but in reality, we rarely actually offer anything substantive. Of cures if we echo and paraphrase others in a small, deliberate fashion it can get us nice results. For instance, people will see us as similar to them and that will increase the level of trust in relationship. But relying only on echoing and paraphrasing others is very shortsighted and will make the relation extremely shallow. If you find yourself just echoing what people are saying, try to offer substantive opinions or observations as well.


Falling asleep

You may have most fascinating stories and opinions to share, but if your energy cannot support it, people may find you hard to listen to. Lacking energy or emotion when you talk can ruin your conversation faster than almost any other bad habit.  Good conversation needs to be alive. It should flow with energy between both sides. If you are not giving your energy, then you are probably subtracting from it. If we want people to be interested, we need to think of our voice as a roller coaster ride for them.



We have an amazing, incredible toolbox and yet it is a toolbox that very few people have ever opened. I would like to take out just a few tools for us to play with while we speak.

  1. Register

Falsetto register may not be very useful most of the time. Some of us talk up in our nose, most of us speak down in our throat but if you want weight you need to go down to your chest. We vote and chose people with lower voices because we associate depth with power and with authority.

  1. Prosody

It is the rhythm, the meta-language that we use in order to impart meaning. It’s root one for meaning in conversation. People who speak all on one note are quite hard to listen to. That’s where the word monotonic comes from. Monotone.

  1. Pace

You can get very excited by saying something really quickly or you can slow right down to emphasize. At the end of that is our old friend silence. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of silence in a talk, it there? It can be very powerful.

  1. Volume

You can get really excited by using high volume or you can have your listeners really pay attention by getting very quiet.  


Be aware of the tools you can use to get the conversation interesting. Vary your pace and your volume. Don’t let it be predictable.


Predictable Talker?

Let’s stick with predictability for a second.  Are you a Predictable Talker? Is everything you say serious and literal? Play around with your responses. The best conversation is playful and unpredictable.

Train your mind to start considering the unexpected responses.  Next time someone asks you a question or makes a comment, mentally think about what response would be unexpected or unpredictable (within reason!).  Once in a while, try one of these unexpected comments and see how you do.  You may surprise yourself.


Not listening

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen - Ernest Hemingway

Don’t be like most people. Don’t just wait eagerly for your turn to talk. Put your own ego on the side-line. Learn to actually listen to what people are saying. When you start to really listen, you’ll pick up on loads of potential paths in the conversation. But avoid yes or no type of questions as they will not give you much depth.


Let them be a star

Don’t do it all at once. You’ll just feel confused and overwhelmed. The one thing that we can do right away that will instantly improve our conversations, is to be genuinely interested in the other person. When someone tells you something, keep the focus on them, ask follow up questions, let them be a star.


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