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Information Theory and Listening > Overcoming Barriers to Understanding

Overcoming Barriers to Understanding

“Listening, really listening, is tough and grinding work, often humbling, sometimes distasteful, says author Robert H. Waterman Jr. in The Renewal Factor: How to Get and Keep the Competitive Edge. When good listeners are on the receiving end of a message, they may come up against many potential barriers to understanding. To be aware of them is the first step to avoiding them.

The rate at which a typical speaker talks (about 140 words per minute) and the rate a listener can understand (from about 280 to 560 words per minute) is exploited by TV and radio commercials using electronically altered speech to tell and sell listeners more. Some speakers, such as auctioneers, talk at a rate of speed much faster than the average listener can comprehend. With practice, even this fast-talking style can be understood. Most people can think three times faster than the person who is sending the message.


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