Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Fostering Constructive Communication, Part One

By Scott E. Friedman, Andrea H. HusVar, and Eliza P. Friedman

Families and businesses, indeed all of humanity, are tied together by their systems of communication, but communication is not easy.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing some strategies to help improve communication and avoid those “in one ear and out the other” situations. First, however, we take a look at why it’s so difficult.

Effective listening is very challenging for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that humans think much faster than they talk. The average rate of speech for most Americans is around 125 words per minute while the human brain, made up of more than 13 billion cells, processes words at much higher speeds. As a result, there is a differential between thinking and speaking rates, allowing our brain spare time to continue thinking. This spare thinking time can make it difficult to concentrate on what another person is saying. [1]

We have all likely heard observations related to the notion of how often we “hear” but don’t “listen.” In fact, studies at the University of Minnesota found that the average person remembers only about half of what he or she has heard—no matter how carefully he thought he was listening. [2]

Unfortunately, without robust communication—and the right kind of communication—relationships can quickly deteriorate, putting family members at great risk of failing to understand each other, whether with respect to confusing finances, business plans, or any aspect of business. And the results can be costly.  Fortunately, there are a number of strategies informed by science that can enhance the quality of communicating and, so, reduce friction. 

We’ll be taking a closer look at these strategies over the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

[1].Ralph G. Nichols & Leonard A. Stevens, Listening to People, Harv. Bus. Rev. (Sept. 1957),

[2]. Id.

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