Join Brenda Bailey-Hughes for an in-depth discussion in this video Overwhelming yourself with information, part of Effective Listening.
- You walk into the room, the speaker begins. It sounds something like this. You begin taking notes. You look back up. The speaker is now talking about, wait, what is he talking about? He's moved on, okay, that's fine. You write down the point he's on now. The more notes you take, the harder you try to capture every word the speaker is saying, the further you fall behind, and the less you understand. 15 or 20 minutes in, your notes look like this.
And you simply give up, tune out, and daydream about what you're going to do when the speech is finally over. You've been defeated by information overload, but you can win this battle, with some note-taking expertise. You were on the right track when you decided to take notes as a way of coping with too much information. And you were taking notes by hand, which is more effective than typing, according to a study at Princeton. So you're on the right track, but we have to be very selective about what we write in our notes, or we get behind, and miss more than we hear.
What should we capture in writing? Well that depends on how you will be using the information you're hearing. Are you in learning mode? If so, you want to listen for the big picture. You want general principles rather than specific facts, but if you will be asked to act on this information later, you may want to recall details, so capture some of the particulars. Remember, we have those five listening focus areas, and we always want to be thinking, what kind of listening is called for in this situation? Once you decide what kind of listening you need, you take your notes accordingly.
Let's say you were at a new employee orientation. Specific dates are probably not important when you are listening to the history of the company. Instead, you want to grasp the big picture. Major developments in the business over time, and key leaders or values of the organization. However, if at this same orientation an HR rep gives you the deadline dates for you to submit your healthcare forms, well, you better write that down, maybe even in a section of your notes titled, to-do.
Consider how you will be using the information you are listening to, and that will help you know what to write down. Now, as far as how you write it down, find a note-taking method that works for you, and stick with it. Popular approaches include the Cornell method. This one is often used by students in college classes. And there's mind mapping, often used for tracking meeting information. You'll find an entire list with explanations of different methods at the Cal Poly website.
Just experiment until you find one that works for you, and remember, never use a sentence when you can use a phrase, or a phrase, when you can use a word.
- Recalling details
- Avoiding distractions and the feeling of being overwhelmed
- Clarifying your role
- Using attentive nonverbal cues
- Paraphrasing what was said
- Matching emotions and mirroring