Listen To Evaluate

by Stephen Boyd | September 30, 2004

We make bad choices because we don't listen well. Political campaigns are in gear and soon we will be voting. We must realize the importance of listening well to make good decisions. In addition, we listen regularly to our physicians, clients, vendors, and family members to ponder choices and make decisions.

Here are some suggestions to improve listening to make decisions.

First, listen for evidence. For any point the talker makes there should be an example, statistics, or testimony to prove the point.

Second, evaluate the evidence. Answer some of the following questions as you collect the evidence. Is there a source for the evidence? Is the source credible? Does the evidence relate to the point? Does the evidence seem reasonable to you?

We sometimes act out this step by getting a second opinion from a physician on a medical condition or obtain two or three prices on the model of car we want to buy. Make the same kind of effort intellectually when listening. Check out the evidence.

Third, make sure you understand the options by asking questions. If the person gives you an example, for instance, ask what other examples might apply. If you listen to testimony, ask about the qualification of the one whom he or she quoted. If you're not sure what decision to make, ask for more evidence.

Finally, consider the source. Is the talker a credible person? Does he or she have a vested interest in the decision he or she wants you to make? What previous experience have you had with information that person has given you? With a trustworthy person, we can give more credence to what he or she is saying.

Sometimes we listen and immediately make a decision. Instead, ask for time to digest the material before deciding. Even a few moments can make a big difference in the quality of each decision you make. Just say, "I'll call you back in 20 minutes." Internalizing the material you have just taken in is an important part of good listening.

Don't be guilty of poor decisions because of bad listening habits. Make good listening an integral part of your life.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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