MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

Who needs to learn how to listen?

Nearly everybody, that’s who — including the people who are selling this course

SANDRA PEREDO November 1 1967
MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

Who needs to learn how to listen?

Nearly everybody, that’s who — including the people who are selling this course

SANDRA PEREDO November 1 1967

Who needs to learn how to listen?

Happenings

Nearly everybody, that’s who — including the people who are selling this course

MOST PEOPLE in North America can think four times faster than they can talk, say the experts. That means they tend to devote only a fraction of their minds to what is being said to them while busily pondering other matters.

The classic example of this is two friends meeting on the street. “How are you?” asks the first. “I’m dying of cholera,” replies the second. “Great to see you again,” responds his friend. “Keep well.”

Now the Xerox Education Division has introduced an Effective Listening Course which will improve a person’s listening ability. The course consists of a two and one-half hour tape made up of a series of listening situations, using speakers with different accents and emotional tones. It includes a high-pressure hillbilly hawking bear traps, a calm, cultured lady discuss-

ing T. S. Eliot, and a liberally anecdoted lecture on what to do in the case of a car accident. By repeating the critical information in a speciallydesigned response booklet, the listener learns to summarize effectively what is important in what he hears.

An organization can buy the Effective Listening Course for a $1,300 licensing fee and then pays $2.15 per participating employee, the latter to cover the cost of the response booklet. The course seems designed mainly for use in industry to help everybody from the management to worker level to listen more effectively and therefore produce more effectively.

“I’m not going to shout that it is absolutely great,” says a regional training officer at Canadian National Railways, where close to four hundred employees have taken Effective Listening. “Some of our people

pooh-poohed it as a waste of time, but they were the very ones who showed a marked improvement in listening on the post-testing. I expect we all improve immediately after the course but I cannot be sure about its lasting value.”

All the sales employees at Xerox itself have had the course as part of their training, and will testify to its lasting value, although, under pressure, even some of them seem to lose their ability to listen effectively.

□ Scene: Telephone conversation

between myself and John Lynn, newly appointed account executive for Xerox Education Division, after we had agreed I would take the Effective Listening Course. Mr. Lynn calls to say, “I’m very sorry but we cannot allow you to take the course as it is against company policy to give it unless there is a nominal fee paid.”

“How much is the fee? I’ll pay it.”

“Well, we’re up in the air at the moment and we’ve given you all the material we can. If there is anything else, please call me back.”

Eventually I did take the course and can testify, as the brochure says, that the program enables a person to “retain mental key-word outlines of spoken information; screen out irrelevancies; cut through distractions such as speaker bias, background noise and emotional overtones.”

But even the Ten Commandments have not done noticeably well in changing human nature over the few thousand years that they have been in the public domain. As the course also points out, most people lose 70 percent of what they hear through lack of interest, disagreement with what is being said, or because they are just waiting for the speaker to finish so they can put in their own two cents worth.

What this means, in effect, is that most people will not subjugate what they really want to what they really should hear. Not even those who have been especially trained to do so.

□ Scene: A quiet boardroom in the Xerox building. Nick Krasniuk, Xerox PR Man and I are facing each other across a large table. “Now,” says Mr. Krasniuk, smiling amiably,

“can you tell me what this story will be about?”

“Well, we’d like to do a story about your Effective Listening Course, and perhaps include some of your plans for new courses in the future.”

“Yes, well if you’re talking about the future, Xerox has just developed this great new copier that you can attach to any ..

“Uh, before you get started, Mr. Krasniuk, I’m really not interested. This isn’t a machine story. We just want to know about your course to help people listen more effectively.” “I see. Well, since I’m started anyway, Xerox has just developed this great new copier that you can attach . . .” SANDRA PEREDO

SANDRA PEREDO