Demonstrating How Difficult Good Listening Is | Distortion Exercise

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Demonstrating How Difficult Good Listening Is | Distortion Exercise
Dr. Alan Williams, Professor, Thailand

I have run a development program on communications many times. Often I include a simple fun listening game.
- The game starts with one attendee going out of the room with the presenter.
- The presenter verbally gives some background information, for example how an imaginary task should be completed.
- The first attendee stays outside and is then joined by one more attendee, who listens to the message as it is being explained by the first attendee.
- This obviously continues until the message has been passed one by one to every attendee.
- Of course, during the process, attendees are not allowed to take notes as they listen to the message.
- The last attendee then writes the message received on a white board.
- Then the presenter reveals the original message on the whiteboard.
You can guarantee the first and last version will be very different. Often the key point in the original message has disappeared.
A variant of the game is to ask each person, to privately write down what they shared verbally, immediately after they have spoken.
Then you can see step by step see how the message progressively changed.

Demonstration of Listening and Distortion
ENROM NGWENYA, Other, South Africa
This exercise also demonstrates another aspect when it comes to active listening: the distortion of the actual message as it passes from a sender to a receiver and onward. Now, if we take the same principle, do the simulation within our organizational structures using the various management levels to distribute either the CEO's strategic plan and you would be astonished by the interpretation and eventually that message or feedback will be distorted.

Demonstrating Active Listening and Distortion
S.V.Sreedhar, India
It is true. Disturbance or noise in communication is always an inherent phenomena.
Actually, in its infancy, e-mail was believed to be able to reduce this distortion, because the communication from the originator could be sent or passed on to multiple recipients, without any changes or additions.
But when intermediate levels add things, there is the possibility again for distortion and to miss the whole point.

Ensuring Clarity of the Message and Avoiding Distortion
Dr. Alan Williams, Professor, Thailand
A few years back I helped a company to install an annual process to cascade business goals, actually part of their performance management system.
- They conduct a series of workshops to cascade the outputs (called key end results) to each descending level, right down to the bottom of the organization.
- When the workshops have been completed the CEO has a session with bottom level staff and no other management personnel are allowed in the room. Obviously the CEO is checking whether his/her message to the senior management is the same when it is shared with the bottom level.
- If it's not the same, the CEO asks mid management staff to explain why the message has changed? - In the same organization there is a carefully prepared set read-only PowerPoint slides explaining the next years business goals. The prepared pack must be used and it cannot be changed. It does help in terms of achieving business goals.

Why Listening is Difficult?
abraham garshong, Accountant, Ghana
Why is (good, active) listening so difficult? May be it is because it comes along with an immense benefit. Good habits are usually difficult to acquire.

Causes for Distortion of a Message
Dr. Alan Williams, Professor, Thailand
@ENROM NGWENYA: I agree this does happen. It can be inadvertently. Or intentional to deliberately derail objectives / change a message or just be a manager (at any level) playing personal political games.


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