The ability of listening is to listen and interpret messages during the process of communication. Listening is essential to any successful communication. If one isn’t able to listen, messages have often misinterpreted, the message is not understood, and communication suffers. The person sending the message may quickly get frustrated or angry.
If there’s a single communication skill that you need to master the others, then it is listening. Listening is so essential that many employers evaluate the ability to listen of their employees.
This shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider that having good listening skills can bring about greater customer satisfaction, higher productivity and fewer errors and more sharing of information. This will, in turn, create greater creativity and innovation in work.
Many successful entrepreneurs and leaders attribute their success to their exemplary listening abilities.
Richard Branson frequently quotes listening as one of the primary reasons for his success with Virgin, which is also frequently mentioned as a crucial factor.
“Listen to your patient. He is telling you the diagnosis” Sir William Osler, first Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Effective listening is a talent that helps build positive human interactions. Listening skills that are effective can have enormously positive effects on our daily life, such as increased social networks, greater confidence and self-esteem, higher marks in school and academics, and also better overall health and wellbeing.
Research has shown that when we speak, it raises blood pressure. The act of listening attentively can lower heart rate and blood pressure.
Listening isn’t the same as hearing.
Hearing refers to the sounds you hear. However, listening involves more than just the ability to concentrate. You are being attentive to listening means paying attention not just to the narrative but also to the way it is described as well as the use of words and voices and how someone else uses their body language. It is aware of the non-verbal and verbal messages. Your ability to hear effectively is contingent on the extent of your ability to perceive and comprehend the messages.
We spend lots of time listening.
Adults spend, on average, 70 per cent of their time in some type of interaction. The majority of 45 per cent is spent listening, compared to 30 per cent speaking as well as 16% reading and nine per cent of writing.
A good listener is one who listens not only to what’s being said and to the things that are left unspoken or not even said. Effective listening requires watching body language and spotting the inconsistencies between non-verbal and verbal messages. For instance, If someone tells you that they’re content with their life, but with grinning teeth or tears streaming down their faces, the non-verbal and verbal messages are at odds, and they may not believe what they are saying.
the 10 fundamentals of Listening
#1 Stop talking and start listening
Don’t talk. Just listen. If you hear someone talking, listen to what they’re speaking, but don’t interrupt and talk over them or complete their sentences for them. Stop, just listen. If the other person is done speaking, you might need to clarify your understanding to ensure that you’ve received their message in a precise manner.
#2 Get ready to listen
Relax. Concentrate on the speaker. Take other things off your mind. The human mind can be often distracted by different thoughts – what’s for lunch, when am I supposed to be leaving to get my train, am I going to rain, etc. So make an effort to eliminate any other thoughts from your head and focus only on the messages being sent out.
#3 Set a positive environment for the person speaking.
Encourage the speaker to feel at ease speaking. Be aware of their needs and concerns. Use gestures or words that encourage them to keep going. Keep your eyes on them, but don’t stare. Show you’re listening and understanding what’s being said.
#4 Remove distractions while listening
Concentrate on what’s being spoken about. Do not doodle, shuffle papers, stare out the window, or pick your nails or other similar items. Avoid interruptions that don’t need to be there. These actions interrupt the listening process and communicate to the listener that indicates you are disengaged or bored.
Try to comprehend the viewpoint of the other party point of. Consider the issues from their perspective. Be free of any preconceived notions. If we are open to new ideas, we will be able to better feel the speaker’s feelings. If the speaker has a point that you do not agree with, put off and create an argument to argue against what the speaker is saying. However, you must remain open to the opinions and views of other people.
#6 When listening be patient
A pause or even an extended pause doesn’t necessarily mean that the speaker has ended. Let the speaker speak in their own way, and sometimes it takes time to think of what to say and the best way to express it. Do not interrupt or complete the sentence of someone else.
#7 Avoid personal prejudice
Try to remain objective. Be calm, and don’t allow someone’s behaviour or habits to hinder your understanding of what they’re actually saying. Everyone has their own way of talking. For instance, more nervous or shy than the others. Others are accented in their region or have exaggerated movements with their arms; certain individuals prefer to walk around while speaking, while others prefer to sit in a seated position. Concentrate on what’s being said, and try to avoid the different styles of speech.
#8 Pay attention to the tone
Tone and volume both contribute to the message of someone speaking. A professional speaker can use both tone and volume to keep the audience interested and engaged. Everyone will utilize the tone, pitch and volume of voice in certain circumstances. Use these to help discern the significance of the message.
#9 Listen for thoughts, Not just words
It is essential to see the complete picture, not just fragments. Perhaps one of the most challenging elements of listening is to connect bits of information in order to discover the thoughts of other people. When you have a good concentration level, let the distractions go, and focus, this can become much easier.
#10 Watch and wait for non-verbal communications
Gestures, facial expressions and eye movements can all be crucial. We don’t only listen with our ears but also use our eyes. Be aware and observe the additional information that is communicated through non-verbal communication. Do not make rash conclusions about what you are seeing and hearing. Always get clarification to make sure that you have the correct information.
The term “active listening” means that you are actively listening. It focuses entirely on what’s being said instead of passively listening to the words that the presenter is trying to convey.
The ability to listen can be learned and developed through practice. But, it is challenging to master and therefore requires patience and time to improve. It’s by utilizing all ten fundamentals of good listening as laid above.
It is, for instance, paying attention to all the senses. In addition to paying complete focus to the speaker, it is crucial that the person who is ‘actively listening’ is also perceived to be attentive. Otherwise, the speaker might think that what they are discussing is not attractive to the person listening.
The listener can convey interest to the speaker using non-verbal and verbal signals such as keeping your eyes on the speaker or smiling, nodding the head while smiling, confirming with a ‘Yes’ or simply an ‘Mmmhmm’ or ‘YES and encouraging them to keep speaking.
Giving feedback will generally help the person talking to feel more comfortable and thus be more comfortable communicating clearly and with honesty.
Listeners must remain neutral and unprejudiced, trying not to be a partisan or make opinions, mainly when the conversation is in its beginning.
Active listening also involves patience. Short periods of silence need to be considered normal. People listening should not be enticed to engage in conversation with questions or remarks whenever there are a couple of seconds of silence.
Active listening is about giving the other person the space to reflect on their thoughts and feelings.
Remember that speakers typically expect listeners to exhibit “active listening” by responding to their words. Effective responses to listening may be non-verbal or verbal.
SIGNS of active listening
Non-Verbal Signals that Indicate Attentiveness or Active Listening
This is a general list of non-verbal indicators of listening. That is, people who listen are more likely to show at least a few of these indicators, but it will vary based on the context and the society in which they live.
A smile can be utilized to signal that the person listening is attentive to the message being conveyed or to show that they are in agreement or being pleased with the messages received. Together with nods of the head, smiling is a powerful way to affirm the message is being heard and being understood.
It’s familiar and beneficial for listeners to gaze at the speaker. Eye contact, however, can make it difficult, especially for those who are shy, So it’s a great idea to know the amount of eye contact that is appropriate in any given scenario. Make eye contact a part of smiles or other non-verbal signals to inspire the speaker.
The way you look at your posture can reveal something about the person who is sending and receiving in interactions with others. The person who is listening intently will lean slightly to the left or to the side when sitting. Other indicators of active listening could be a slight tilt in the head or putting your head upon one side of one’s hand.
The automatic reflection or mirroring of facial expressions made by the speaker is an indication of attentive listening. Thoughtful expressions can be used to show empathy and compassion in more emotional circumstances. Making an effort to imitate facial expressions (i.e. not automatically reflecting expressions) could be an indication of inattention.
The person who is actively listening is not distracted and thus avoids fidgeting, staring at a watch or clock or drawing, engaging in hair play or taking their fingernails off. Be aware that it is entirely possible to study and emulate non-verbal indicators of active listening but not really be listening in any way. It is much more difficult to imitate verbal signals of comprehension and listening.
The Verbal Signs that indicate Attentiveness and Active Listening
Although it can be a vital sign of attention, caution must be taken when using positive reinforcement. While some positive words of encouragement can be helpful to speakers, the audience must use them sparingly to ensure that they do not distract from the message or overemphasize specific aspects that are not relevant to the content.
The casual and repeated usage of phrases and words such as ‘very good”, ‘yes’ or ‘indeed’ could be annoying to the person speaking. It is generally better to go into detail and provide a reason for why you are with a particular point.
Human brains are notoriously poor at retaining particulars, particularly for any duration of time. But, recollecting some key details as well as the person who spoke to you will help in proving that the message has been received and understood, i.e. that listening was effective. Recalling specific details, ideas and ideas from previous conversations indicates that attention was maintained and will likely inspire the speaker to keep listening. When a conversation is more extended, it could be beneficial to take short notes that can serve as a jog for memory when asking questions or clarifying later.
The listener is able to demonstrate that they’ve been paying attention by asking questions or saying things that support or aid in clarifying the message of the speaker. When asking pertinent questions, the listener is also able to confirm that they have a keen interest in the content of what the speaker is talking about.
Reflecting is the process of closely repeating or paraphrasing what a speaker has said to demonstrate understanding. Reflection is a practical ability that helps enhance your speaker’s message and also demonstrates the speaker’s understanding.
Clarification involves asking questions to the speaker to make sure that the message is correct and is being received. Clarification typically involves the use of open-ended questions, which allow the speaker to elaborate on specific points as needed.
Repetition of a summary of what has been stated by the speaker is a method that allows the listener to recall what they have learned. The process of summarizing involves taking the most critical aspects of the message and re-stating them in a clear and concise manner while giving the speaker a chance to make corrections if needed.
There are many kinds of listening.
Listening is the act of listening, making meaning out of, and responding to nonverbal or spoken messages. – International Listening Association.
General Listening Types
The two primary kinds of listening and the basis of all listening sub-types are:
#1 Discriminative Listening
The ability to discriminate against listeners is developed at an early age, possibly even before birth, even in infancy. It is the most basic method of listening. It doesn’t require the comprehension of the meanings of phrases or words but rather the various sounds generated. In the early years of childhood, it is common for there to be a distinct sound between the parents’ voices as the voice of the father is different from the mother’s.
The ability to discriminate against listeners develops during the years of childhood and through adulthood. As we age and acquire more life experiences, the ability to differentiate the different sounds becomes more apparent. Not only are we able to distinguish distinct voices as we age, but we also gain the ability to recognize subtle differences in the manner the sounds are created.
This is an essential aspect of comprehending the meaning behind these sounds. The subtle differences can be seen in being able to recognize foreign languages, discerning between regional accents, and clues to the emotions and thoughts of the person speaking. Being able to recognize the subtleties in the sound produced by someone who is happy, sad or upset, for instance, can add value to what’s being said and, obviously, helps to understand. When the ability to discriminate in listening is coupled with visual stimuli, the ability to listen to body language allows us to comprehend the speaker better and recognize that someone is sad regardless of what they’re saying or the way they say it.
Exercise: discriminative listening
Imagine a time in which you’ve been in the presence of people who speak a language you don’t comprehend, perhaps while travelling through an airport in a different country.
Imagine what you could hear: You could be able to distinguish distinct voices, female and male aged and young, and gain a sense of what’s happening around you based on the manner of speaking, tone of voice, as well as body language, others. You don’t understand the words being spoken. However, you are able to use selective listening to attain an understanding of the world around you.
#2 Comprehensive Listening
Comprehensive listening is the process of understanding what message is being transmitted. Similar to discriminative listening, the concept of comprehensive listening is crucial to all sub-types of listening. To be able to utilize comprehensive listening and improve understanding listening, the listener must first have the correct vocabulary and language skills. A language that is overly complex or technical jargon can become a hindrance to listening with a full range.
Comprehensive listening can be further complicated because two people who are listening to the same message may interpret the message in different ways. This can become a problem in a setting for groups like an office or class meeting, where many different interpretations are possible from the information that has been shared.
Complete listening is supported by messages that come from non-verbal communication, for example, the voice tone and gestures, as well as various body movements. These non-verbal signals can significantly help in comprehension and communication. However, they can also be confusing and lead to misinterpretation. In various situations of listening, it is crucial to ask for clarification and utilize skills like reflection to help in understanding.
Specific types of listening
Listening with discrimination and completeness is a prerequisite for listening styles. The types of listening are further defined by the purpose that the listener is aiming for.
The three major types of relationships that are frequent in relationships between people are:
- Informal listening (Listening to learn);
- A Critical Listening (Listening to analyze and evaluate) as well as
- Empathetic or Therapeutic Listening (Listening to understand Feelings as well as Emotions).
In reality, you might have multiple goals to listen to at any given moment. You could, for instance, be listening to learn while trying to be more compassionate.
#1 Informational Listening
If you are listening in order to gain knowledge, you’re engaging in informational listening. This can be seen in a variety of everyday scenarios, like in the classroom and at work or at work, as you watch the news, or watch documentaries when your friend gives you how to cook or is explaining technical issues using the aid of a computer.
All kinds of listening are “active” in that they require focus and conscious effort to comprehend. However, informational listening isn’t as active as other kinds of listening. If we listen to learn or be taught, it is a time to absorb new facts and information, but we aren’t criticizing or debating. Listening for information, particularly in formal settings like meetings at work or in education settings, is typically associated with note-taking as a method of recording essential details so that they can be reviewed in the future.
# 2 Critical Listening
It is possible to listen critically when the aim is to analyze or examine the information being shared. Critical listening is a more active type of listening and typically involves some form of decision-making or problem-solving. It usually involves comparisons to the information we have already gathered or have faith in.
Informational listening is primarily focused on acquiring facts and/or new information, while critical listening is concerned with the analysis of opinions and making a judgment.
If the term ‘critical’ is used to refer to listening, reading or thinking, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re saying that the information you are listening to is flawed or inaccurate. Critical listening is being engaged in the content you’re hearing and asking yourself questions like what does the speaker intend to say? “what is the principal argument being made in the present?’, or ‘how do I perceive the information being presented from my knowledge, beliefs or opinions or knowledge?’.
Critical listening is essential to learning. A lot of decisions we make in our daily lives are based on a particular type of “critical” analysis. Our beliefs, values, and opinions are based on our ability to take in information and form our own thoughts of the universe around us, as well as weigh all the benefits and drawbacks in order to make an informed choice. It is essential to listen with a critical eye, to be open-minded and not be influenced by preconceived notions or stereotypes. When you do this, you’ll be more attentive and expand your understanding and perspective of people around you and the relationships you have with them.
3 Therapeutic Therapy or Empathic Listening
Empathic listening means trying to comprehend the thoughts and thoughts of the person speaking by putting yourself in the shoes of the speaker and being able to share their thoughts. Empathy is the process to connect deeply with another person. It can be the process of empathic or therapeutic listening can be challenging.
Empathy isn’t the same as sympathy. It goes beyond being compassionate and feeling sorry for someone or someone else. It is an increased level of sense of connection, an awareness and appreciation for another viewpoint.
Therapists, counsellors and other professionals utilize empathy or therapeutic listening to comprehend and eventually aid their clients. This kind of listening doesn’t involve making judgements or giving advice but instead gently encouraging the person speaking to clarify and explain their emotions and feelings. Skills like reflection and clarification are commonly utilized to prevent miscommunication.
We all have the capacity for empathic listening and can practice it with our family, friends and colleagues. Empathy is an essential quality in many relationships. You may find it easier to discuss your feelings and thoughts with a specific person. They’re likely to be more adept at listening to you than the other, and this is usually in line with similar values, perspectives of experiences, beliefs, and values.
Other types of listening
While generally less significant or meaningful in interpersonal relationships but there are different kinds of listening.
Appreciative listening or listening to music for pleasure. One good example of this is listening to music, specifically, a relaxing method to unwind.
Rapport listening is used to try to build rapport with people and can help the other person believe in us and to like us. Salespeople, for instance, will try to pay attention to what you’re talking about to build trust and possibly sell. This kind of listening is typical in negotiation situations.
Selective listening is a less favourable kind of listening that suggests that the listener might be affected by the information they’re hearing. The bias can stem from preconceived notions or emotional communication. Listening selectively is a sign of poor communication. It is impossible to discern if you’ve removed a portion of the information, and it could reinforce or increase your prejudices for future communications.
We all are capable of listening with ease in different situations and with different people. Effective listening is, however, an active process. It must be performed with a sense of purpose and requires practice. There are many commonly held beliefs or myths about listening that affect our feelings and, in turn, hinder the process of listening to be more efficient. It is crucial in the process of developing abilities to listen. It is essential to be aware of the myths surrounding listening in order to be discarded and allow better comprehension of listening.
There are six commonly held beliefs about listening that are common:
#1 It’s hard to master the art of listening
Everyone learns to be attentive at an early age and spends a significant amount of time listening. The quality of our listening depends on the context of the conversation as well as our motivation to listen, and our personal characteristics.
The process of listening becomes so effortless that we are able to create bad habits and get blasé about it. The essential skills required to be able to listen effectively aren’t challenging to master. The best way to improve your listening abilities is to practice and consistently use excellent listening skills in every communication situation. It’s worth the effort to master the ability to listen.
Employers value-effective listening high, especially in leadership and management positions. You can expect to reap positive effects in your personal and social life as well, such as more significant and more meaningful connections with your fellow colleagues.
#2 “I’m a good listener.”
Most people overestimate their own listening capabilities and undervalue the abilities of other people. Also, we believe that we’re more attentive than other people. Effective listening is assessed by the knowledge you acquire. No one is born a great listener. Without training and practice, you’re not likely to be a proficient listener.
The notion that you are more attentive than other people will not be valid unless you’ve spent the time to study and practice your listening skills over time.
#3 People who are intelligent have better listening skills
There isn’t any connection between intelligence (IQ) and the level of listening. Being intelligent and possessing an impressive vocabulary can help us process information and make sense of it, but they don’t necessarily make smart people better listeners.
For instance, knowledgeable people might be more likely to become bored during conversations and “tune out’ by thinking of other things, thus not paying attention. People who have greater emotional intelligence (EQ), however, are more likely to be more attentive. Emotional intelligence is the ability of a person to evaluate the needs of others and to manage their emotions, as well as the emotions of other people. The measure of emotional intelligence is an individual’s ability to take into consideration the needs of others’ emotional well-being. The assessment of these needs is often facilitated by good listening.
#4 Hearing is the same thing as listening
Hearing is not a conscious activity like breathing. We breathe without thinking about it. Listening is a learned skill and is an active process. Our brains must be more efficient in processing the information we receive and comprehend the meaning behind the message. Understanding is the aim of listening.
Listening to music is more than just hearing. Effective listening involves paying attention to the meaning of the words you hear and putting them in the context of an understanding. A good listener also recognizes the non-verbal signals of the speaker, such as gestures, tone of voice and body language.
#5 We listen better as we grow older
It is not a given that people improve their listening skills when they grow older. Without constant practice and thinking about listening, there’s no reason to expect skills to be improved. As we move through life and experience life, our ability to listen will likely increase. The extent to which we utilize this capability and listen better is contingent on our personality and the situation in which we are staying clear of any bad habits we might have picked up throughout the course of our lives.
#6 Gender influences the ability to listen
In general, and without attempting to create stereotypes, women and men view communication in different ways. Women place greater importance on emotions, cooperation and connection, while men are more focused on facts. They aren’t comfortable talking about and listening to emotional or personal issues.
It doesn’t mean that women listen better than males or vice versa. However, there could be different ways that messages are perceived. In a conversation, both women and men will likely inquire in different ways with the speaker in order to understand the message. Therefore the final interpretation of the conversation may be different.
In unit-8 we will cover various Barriers to Communication and their impact on communication process.