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Assessment: How much do you suck at listening?

Submitted by on Monday, 23 December 2019

Listening to what's heardAnswer these questions to see how accurately you hear what your communication partner intends you to hear.




  1. How often do you enter conversations to hear what you want to hear – and disregard the rest?
  2. How often do you listen to get your own agenda across, regardless of the needs of the speaker?
  3. How often do you have a bias in place before the speaker’s points or agenda are known?
  4. Do you ever assume what the speaker wants from you before s/he states it – whether your assumption is accurate or not?
  5. How often do you listen merely to confirm you are right…and the other person is wrong?
  6. Do you ever enter a conversation without any bias, filters, assumptions, or expectations? What would need to happen for you to enter all conversations with a totally blank slate? Do you have the tools to make that possible?
  7. Because your filters, expectations, biases, and assumptions strongly influence how you hear what’s intended, how do you know that your natural hearing skills enable you to achieve everything you might achieve in a conversation?
  8. How much business have you lost because of your inability to choose the appropriate modality to hear and interpret through?
  9. How many relationships have you lost by driving conversations where you wanted them to be rather than a path of collaboration that would end up someplace surprising?

As I wrote my new book WhatDid You Really Say What I Think I Heard? and asked folks I knew to provide feedback, I received similar notes from all around the world saying that the book was great – for their spouses. The consistent message was that they, themselves, heard every word spoken and had no communication problems around their listening skills. Ah, I thought, but do they hear what’s intended?

It’s physiologically impossible to accurately hear all that our communication partners intend to convey. Here are some reasons why:

  • we have biases, filters, triggers, assumptions, and habits that uniquely contort what’s heard.
  • people don’t always accurately represent what they say and mean for us to hear, leaving out details they assume will be understood and aren’t, or choosing words that have different meanings than how their listeners define them.
  • the situation in which our communication is taking place has any range of situational biases that make shared understanding challenging.
  • we all interpret what we hear uniquely, according to our education, family history, religious beliefs, political beliefs, age, and ethnicity.

Are you getting the picture here? Assured understanding is not even close to possible. Yet most of us assume we hear accurately. Sure, we hear the words. But do we understand what’s meant?


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Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.

More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com ; 512-771-1117. www.didihearyou.com;www.sharondrewmorgen.com