Listen Up! Without this Skill, Communication can be painful

BY HUME JOHNSON, PhD

How many times has someone been talking to you and you zoned out, or you are merely waiting for your turn to speak. You are completely clueless about what is being said. You just know you don’t necessarily agree and you cant wait to insert your own perspective. I have been trying to listen more these days, not just to hear what the other person is saying but to understand. Hearing is not the same as listening.

WHAT IS LISTENING?

Listening means paying close attention to, and making sense of what we hear. Research shows that 60 % of the errors made in business come from poor listening. Most of your time at work is spent listening to colleagues, clients and supervisors. At college. students spend long hours listening to lectures and discussions. Indeed, studies show a strong correlation between listening and academic success. Students with the highest grades are usually those with the strongest listening skills.The reverse is also true, those students with the lowest grades are the ones with weak listening skills. Same applies to work and personal situations. Better listeners tend to foster better relationships, generate greater respect, grasp ideas better and a generally more effective professionals.

 To become a great communicator, listening is an essential skill. Most of our ideas tend to come from television, radio, conversations, lectures. If you do not listen well, you will not understand what you hear and may pass along your misunderstanding to others.  In his book, The Art of Public Speaking, Stephen Lucas talks about four different types of listening:

 TYPES OF LISTENING

  • Appreciative Listening – Listening for pleasure or enjoyment comedy routine or entertaining speech.
  • Empathetic Listening – Listening to provide emotional support for a speaker. EG: psychiatrists listening to patients
  • Comprehensive Listening – Listening to understand the message of a speaker – classroom lecture; listening for directions
  • Critical Listening – Listening to evaluate a message for the purposes of accepting or rejecting it. (Sales pitch; campaign speech). Critical thinking involves a number of skills: summarizing information, Recalling facts, Distinguishing main points from minor points, Separating fact from opinion, Spotting weaknesses in reasoning and judging the soundness of evidence.

To listen wee, you have to use your mind, as well as your ears, and at times, even your heart.When your mind is not actively involved – when you are not actively paying attention to a speaker’s words, you are hearing but you are not listening. Think of speakers to whom you nearly always pay attention to? Why are these speakers easier to listen to than others? What do you think are the causes of poor listening? It can be not concentrating, listening too hard (yes there is such a think as listening too keenly); jumping to conclusions, and focusing on delivery and personal appearance.

 FOLLOW THESE STEPS TO BECOME A BETTER LISTENER

  • Take listening seriously – give it the seriousness it deserves
  • Be an active listener – give the person undivided attention
  • Resist distractions – Do not stare at everything around you or at your phone. Make eye contact and nod to illustrate that you are indeed listening
  • Don’t be diverted by the person’s appearance or delivery. Give them the respect of hearing their perspective even if you disagree.
  • Suspend judgment – Though it may be tempting to immediately express disagreement, suspend your judgment and hear the person out.
  • Focus your Listening – listen for main points, evidence and techniques
  • Develop note-taking skills – If its a workshop, lecture or professional talk, jot down notes, keywords and phrases so as to be able to converse about the topic later.

Challenge yourself this week to become an active listener. Let us know how you go!

Happy listening!

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