You Probably Suck at Listening

Is anyone really reading all the status updates on Facebook?

black-man-yelling-into-phoneHow often do we really listen to people? How often do we put ourselves aside for a moment and truly try to unveil words and read deeply into what another person is saying? It’s not easy to do! Listening is a really important skill, and yet there is very little focus on the concept. In schools we are taught communications techniques. In universities we can be a communications major. In life we are pushed to constantly express ourselves. The whole basis of social media is to continually communicate! But when does someone ever sit us down and tell us how to be better listeners. Not to often.

How we communicate

Public-Speaker1Before we learn how to listen, we must understand the core concepts of communications. The Greeks got this right a long time ago. They summed up communication into three parts ethos, logos, and pathos. I’m sure you have heard these three words in succession before. Here is what they mean:

  • Ethos: Communication based on credibility or character
  • Logos: Communication based on an appeal emotion
  • Pathos: Communication based on logic

It is important to understand this because when someone is communicating they are communicating on all three layers. We do this subconsciously, but it’s entirely true. Go over any of the arguments you have had in the past and you will see how we touch on each style over and over.

The ideal listener

Audience-Listening-to-Public-Speaker-The ideal listener will listen empathically. We become the ideal listener when we truly care for what the other has to say and we truly want to feel what the person is feeling. We will try to understand all layers of communication for each statement, thought, or argument. As we reviewed earlier, the ideal listener listens for ethos, pathos, and logos. In other words, we listen to hear where the other person is coming from (ethos). Then we listen to the emotions behind their words (pathos). Are they really excited, or are they frustrated or fearful. Finally we listen to what they are saying (logos). All this to learn where they are coming from and what is it that they are trying to get at. All this to prove that you care and that you will not pass judgment and you will try really hard to understand.

Typical responses

78788-425x282-Group_ConversationTypically, a listener uses one of four ways to respond during a conversation.  We either evaluate, probe, give advice, or interpret.

  • “That totally reminds me of a story!”
  • “Well really you shouldn’t be doing that”
  • “I can’t believe you do that! That’s not right.”
  • “I do that too! Usually it’s because I am not happy with the situation..”

When we evaluate we are really passing judgment. It’s the easiest way for the person to clam up and stop feeling comfortable. Giving advice is great when it’s asked for, but when it’s not, there could be misunderstandings here. Interpreting involves superimposing our own motives into the conversation. The focus of the conversation shifts to the listener at this point, ignoring the motives of the other person. Finally, there is probing. It’s usually fine to probe, but if it’s a stranger then they will feel like they are being interviewed rather than being listened to. Usually the prober will end up passing judgment, giving advice or interpreting the situation in the end.

How we should respond

TETRRF-00013265-001Silence is a great way to respond. Simply just letting the person add to what they want to say. Try it! You would be surprised. Generally someone will keep going.

Secondly we can probe, but it must be gentle. We must do it to better understand the person, instead of driving the conversation to our desired topic. Lawyers are good at this and a common objection in the courtroom is leading the witness.

The last thing is the innocuous statement. Really it’s just repeating a key concept or emotional exclamation. Some examples are “Wow, that’s amazing!”, “I can’t believe that!”, or “That shit cray!”

What’s amazing is when we usually want to give advice, but hold off just long enough, we see that either the person comes up with the advice themselves or they ask us for advice.

The End Goal

couple pictureIn the end the goal is to strengthen the bonds of our relationships. There is no better way to do this then to do whatever it takes to learn about or understand the other person. To learn about what makes them excited, what their fears are, or what makes them tick.

The only way this can be done is to build trust. The more patient we are with the people we love, the less judgmental or pushy, the more trust we will build.

Listening is not passive. We must practice to become better listeners especially for the people we love and care about.

4 Areas for Personal Growth

Sometimes it’s best to take a step back and look at things from a bird’s eye point of view. From this distance it’s easy to draw lines in the sand to define basic concepts without having to blur lines.

Many spiritualists, scientists and philosophers have done this when analyzing the human being, and the results are fairly similar. Sometimes the number of categories may differ as concepts intersect and lines blur, but the overall vision is always fairly similar. We’d like to go over these concepts as a basic review for self improvement.

Listed below is one of many ways we can generalize the core traits of a human being. Our goal is simply to remind our readers that there are different categories for self improvement without really going into much detail of the “how” or “why.”


imagesSpirituality is the most personal aspect to our lives. Here we ask the hardest questions, evaluate ourselves at the deepest level, and where we keep our hopes and dreams. This is the part of us that thinks about “why,” “how,” and “what” when it comes to life. We are practicing spirituality during prayers, meditation or introspection.  Spirituality is where one builds character.


Molecular ThoughtsThe mental aspect represents the things we learn and how we express ourselves. First we are continuously learning and expressing ourselves throughout the human experience. When we focus our efforts then things learned can become more meaningful. We can find examples this in the arts, athletics, music, and language. The things we learn become a large aspect of our lives. In the end it typically evolves into our hobbies and careers.


Family_Portrait_The social aspect covers all of our relations. Example of this include our family, friends and community relations. The way we mold our relationships, the people we choose to spend time with, and how we treat strangers paint a clear picture of who we are. People strengthen their relationships by spending focused quality time with those they care about, by building deep bonds through shared experiences, and by just plain listening and being there for them without looking for things in return.


physicalTherapyThe physical aspect is simply our body. Our body plays a large role in defining us. It is the vessel in which we do everything else. How well one takes care of their body says a lot about their character. There are three facets to it. What we eat, if or how often we exercise, and then how often we abuse it with drugs and alcohol.

All four of these areas of our lives matter significantly. In our journey through life we make progress in each area at different times. Sometimes we may focus on one area over the others, but eventually a balance may occur where all four areas are paid attention to equally. Hopefully what we discover is that all areas feed into the other. It becomes easier practicing all areas together compared to focusing on one or two aspects exclusively.

BetterMe Mission Statment

We believe that if we want to become better whether we want to feel better, become more successful however it’s defined, become healthier or wealthier, it is in our control to do so.

This will be achieved by using any tool that can help us. We will challenge ourselves and push ourselves to a higher standard. We will share our dreams and failures with everyone. We will be honest, fair, and sincere with ourselves, our co-workers and anyone we make dealings with.

As we celebrate our successes we will always support yours. We will award our employees and users for reaching their goals through prizes or recognition. Shaming of failures will be lighthearted and fun.

Our goal is to provide knowledge through the spread of educational content. We will hold ourselves to a higher standard in quality of topics and research. We will donate to further research human development and mental health.

Accordingly, it is our wish to provide our users with college scholarships once a year. We will provide growth opportunities to anyone involved in BetterMe by either providing career opportunities or further their education through certification or higher education.

Technology will be central to all progress. We will continue to innovate tools internally along with those for the public. Internal tools of high use will be made available to the public either through sale or open source.

Never forget your community. We will take part in community services chosen by employees. We will support local homeless and mentally ill because a society is best judged by how they treat those who have it worst.

Do You Have a Mission Statement?

Funeral PastorIf you died tomorrow what would your friends, family members, or co-workers say about you?

Imagine it. Take a minute away from your work, look away from your computer and imagine these individuals talking about you. Think about what they say about your character, contributions and achievements.

Then think about what you would want them to say.

This is one of many techniques for creating a mission statement. A mission statement is a written statement about who you are and what you stand for. It should longer than a slogan, and more structured then a list. It should in a few sentences describe why you do the things you do, how you believe you should do them and what those things are.

Here is an example:

I believe in expressing myself through care, music and art. I am honest with myself and my family members. I push myself and those I love, friend and family, to be honest, fair and sincere. I do not have any guilty pleasures because I am proud of the things that I like. I will always be supportive of other people’s works of expression. I will always be a student of life, spirituality, and my hobbies.

Most famous of all mission statements is the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

Declaration of Independence

Here is an excerpt:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

It’s starting with a very strong belief and then listing the cornerstone to how government should function. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, the US government has a sole purpose to protect the rights of it’s citizens.

Another way to go about creating a mission statement is to simply think of some powerful character traits. Think about how you use these traits in your daily life and what you want to achieve. Here is an example I found on the internet:

I am an educator. I am passionate about supporting the growth and education of others – in whatever context that might be.

I believe in empowerment.

I will treat all people with the same respect regardless of race, gender, ability or disability.

In relationships with my coworkers, my supervisors, and my customers, I will strive to be humble, considerate, honest, kind, forgiving, and wise.

Each day I will say something kind to, and about someone else; thank those who have helped me, and do something kind for someone else.

I value and keep my word.

In everything I do, I will be guided by my values and shall give it my interest, my enthusiasm, my passion, and most importantly, myself.

I hold myself accountable and give myself credit.

I am part of a larger community – as such, I will strive, always, to encourage and support the dreams and aspirations of others, learn about others, and contribute to the betterment of my community.

Having something written down allows for us to have a strong vision to aim towards. These are essential for large organizations and are very useful for your self or your family.

Share your missions statement!

Why We Do the Things We Do

To have a dream, a powerful vision of the future, a calling, is everyone’s ideal motivator. How motivating is it to know that today we will have a chance to take one step closer towards our vision. The beauty lies in the fact that every person in the world has some sort of desire, inspiration, vision held deep inside them, and many of us share similar dreams. The question is how strong is our belief?

One of my favorite Ted talks is a Tedx talk by Simon Sinek who is a marketer reevaluating why certain people or companies succeed rather than their rivals.

Though he talks about companies, then inventors, then leaders, this still applies to everyday people. We should all ask these questions and think about why we do the things we do.

Why we do the things that we do?

We have hope because:

  • We believe we can better the world by caring for one person at a time
  • We believe we can better the world by spreading joy through art
  • We believe we can better the world through innovation, invention, businesses or non-profits

We are sad, angry or fearful:

  • We believe we cannot effect the world around us, that circumstances are enough of an excuse for apathy
  • We believe that everyone around us is out to get us by blaming other individuals or groups
  • We believe we are not good enough or strong enough

How we do them?

Hopefully with integrity, focus, and care though sometimes people are careless, sloppy, and rude.

What we do?

We go to school or work, and we build relations. Support causes, culture or the arts.

Tell us your most powerful beliefs.

Stop putting out fires

putting-out-fireQuick fixes can go a long way, but at times we do have to sit back and assess the deeper problems at hand so that the same problem will not reoccur. In many industries there is a work form called a CAPA that can be used to help reassess issues. These are usually filled out mindlessly, but the concept is powerful.

CAPA stands for “Corrective Action Preventive Action.” How can we use the concept of the CAPA to improve how we tackle life tasks?

Imagine a scenario with a flower vase is placed at the edge of a coffee table and a child running around knocks over the vase, spilling its contents, and leaving a mess.

broken vase

In this example you can a) clean the mess and put the vase and flowers back on the coffee table or b) take a moment and see what you can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Scenario A is the corrective action. In life and the workplace this occurs constantly. There is an issue, we face the issue and fix the problem. Once the issue is fixed we move on to our next task never really revisiting the issue. 3 months later we find out the flower vase has been knocked over again.

Scenario B is the preventative action. Taking a moment and reassessing the issue at hand. Maybe it’s not the best idea to leave a flower vase on a low kitchen table where children run around. Maybe children shouldn’t be running around in the first place. There are many ways to go about it, but in the end fixing the deeper seeded issue will not only resolve the issue at hand, but it may resolve other unforeseen issues.

Absorbed pensive mature businessman

In our last blog post we talked about time management. Scenario A is a quadrant 3 task whereas scenario B is a quadrant 2 task.

Invest your time wisely using the CAPA concept and watch the returns benefit your life or work. Tell us how you have used this concept in the past!



Cure Time Mismanagement

Create a list, prioritize and attack. Everyone pretty much knows this much about time management, but there is one notion that has forever changed the way I work. It’s the concept of importance versus urgency.


The ideal place to be is in quadrant number 2

Our day to day tasks usually reside in quadrant number 1 and number 3. Living a life in these two quadrants isn’t entirely bad and in some work places you will be an all star just working this way, but in all likely there is little room for growth when working this way.

Quadrant 2 tasks are the tasks that sit in the back of our minds brewing. We usually tell ourselves, “only if we had more time, then we would be able to tackle those tasks.” We know it’s important but we never get to it.

Here is the leap in thought that is necessary for success. The more tasks you tackle in quadrant 2, the less tasks you will find coming at you from quadrant 1. When one is always prepared and constantly ahead of certain deadlines then there is no reason to be caught off guard.

Of course there will always be fires that need your attention, and in the end I don’t think anyone tackles tasks only from quadrant 2 through out their entire work day. The point is to reserve time on a daily basis that will ensure that tasks from quadrant 2 is always being worked on. I like to give it 30 minutes or an hour a day, but it can be more or less. As long as some attention is given to these tasks.

Let me know what you guys think. How often are you in quadrant 1 and 3?