Join Brenda Bailey-Hughes for an in-depth discussion in this video Understand the big picture, part of Effective Listening.
- Sometimes we are in situations where the details are actually a distraction. If we get bogged down in the details we may find that we actually missed the more universal truth, or the broader scope that was being communicated. I remember sitting in a meeting, when a branding consultant presented his recommendations for how a company should brand itself with customers. The questions at the end of his presentation demonstrated who had been listening for big picture.
Those people were asking important questions about strategy for implementation. They asked about the research conducted to reach the recommendation, and they probed for a deeper understanding of the general direction. On the other hand, there were some people who asked the specific date that the brand would roll out which hadn't been decided yet. And they asked about specific wording, and specific visuals, which hadn't been decided yet. This went on for awhile, and you could tell that they were frustrated listeners, but they were also frustrating to the presenter, and others in the room who knew this wasn't the time yet, for focusing on, or worrying about the details.
The details would be important of course, but not yet. Now it was more important to focus on the overall vision, the mission, the big picture. Have you noticed people who can sit through a really long meeting, and are then able to synthesize the core ideas into one or two concise sentences as a review? That's a person who can listen for and understand the big picture. Can you? Here are a few helpful tips.
Ask yourself, how will this information have an impact five years from now? And how would I explain this to someone outside the organization or this relationship? When we can clearly and concisely explain an idea to someone who is not even familiar with the information, we've probably figured out the big picture. In addition to asking yourself these key questions, you can practice understanding the big picture by attending a lecture and describing afterward the key ideas presented.
If you have more than three to four main ideas, you've probably been too focused on details. This is a listening skill well worth improving, if it isn't one of your current strengths.
- 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