Listening is an essential part of spoken communication. Speaking and listening go together and oral communication cannot be effective without proper listening. Poor listening defeats the very purpose of spoken words. Listening is a deliberate effort and is much more than hearing. It requires getting the full meaning of what is being said.
Listening effectively takes skill, self-motivation, and practice. Effective listening means concentrating on what the speaker says rather than on how it is said. Lack of attention and respectful listening can be costly - leading to mistakes, poor service, misaligned goals, wasted time and lack of teamwork.
Reasons for Effective Listening
a) To avoid Misunderstandings: we will be able to avoid misunderstandings by becoming an active listener. We will also be able to do things right the first time when you listen effectively. Problems are solved quicker by being an "active listener".
b) To Get along Better with Others: Listening actively will show that you sincerely care. It is a very high compliment when we listen to others, because it gives the speaker the sense of self worth and confidence.
c) To will learn more About the World: Television, radio, and conversations aid in our understanding. The more knowledge we gain, the more we will enjoy the things around us.
d) To be more successful on the Job: Our grades and interest in job will increase as a result of effective listening. Many jobs require good listening skills such as telephone operators, nurses, doctors, auto mechanics, teachers, lawyers, etc.
Listening is of various types depending upon the speaker.
a) Discriminative Listening: - when the listener differentiates between different parts of the speaker messages.
b) Evaluative Listening: - listening is said to be evaluative when the listener evaluates the evidence and reaches a conclusion.
c) Appreciative Listening: - here the listener shows by words or his body language that he likes some part of a speech and agrees with the speaker.
d) Empathic Listening: - when the listener puts himself in the place of the position of the speaker it is called Empathic Listening.
e) Active Listening: - when the listener genuinely interested in understanding what the other person is thinking, feeling, wanting or what the message means, and active in checking out our understanding it is called active listening.
IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING
a) It helps us to understand the people and the world around us.
b) In our society, listening is essential to the development and survival of the individual.
c) Relationships depends more on listening skills than on speaking skills.
d) A good listener is always in a better position to deal with his problems and relationships.
e) It helps a person to grow in his career.
f) It keeps a person well informed
g) It helps an organization to meet its objectives.
h) Being listened to spells the difference between feeling accepted and feeling isolated.
i) A good listener rarely involves himself in controversies and misunderstanding.
j) Listening skills are critical to effective leadership.
k) Good listeners are often the best speakers because they have taken the time to find out what people are truly interested in.
Problems in effective listening
Listening is a very important aspect of oral communication. If there is any lacking or fault in listening, it might cause failure to communication process. So, people should be well aware of faults in listening so as to improve the overall communication ability. These faults are enumerated as under:
1. Prejudice against the speaker: Sometimes the speaker conflicts with our attitude. The summary of these conflicts is as follows:
(i) Personality of the Speaker: - If the speaker is not liked by the listener, the listener may not pay attention to listening. For example a business person might not listen to his rival because he is biased with the personality of that rival.
(ii) Thoughts of speaker: - If the thoughts of speaker are in contrast with the listener’s thoughts the listening process could be damaged.
2. External Distraction: External environment affects listening a lot. Noisy fans, poor light, distracting background music, overheated or cold room, poor ventilation and many other things distract a listener’s attention from the speaker’s message.
3. Thinking speed: On average, most of us speak between 80 and 160 words per minute. Whereas, people have the ability to think at the rate of up to 800 words per minute. Despite this fact, the listener may have slower thinking process due to the following reasons:
(i) Competition of concentration: - The listener could not concentrate on the message because he has many things to think besides listening to the message.
(ii) Doing some other activity: - The listener might be involved in doing some other activity.
4. Premature evaluation: When the listener starts evaluating the message during the process of listening, he/she is not attentive enough to the message. This is another fault of listening.
5. Semantic stereotype: There are many topics to which the listener has emotional and psychological belongingness. So, the topic and issues which hurt his feelings are not absorbed by him easily.
6. Delivery of speech: A monotone can easily put the listener to sleep or cause him to lose the interest.
7. Language: Another fault of listening is the language. If the speaker using such words, idioms, or structure of language with which the listener is not familiar, the speaker will face difficulties in conveying his message.
8. Sluggishness: If the listener is mentally or physically tired, or habitually lazy, he would feel difficulty in listening to the message.
Guidelines for effective listening
Listening is very important aspect of communication. Around 20% of overall communication is listening. Therefore, one should strive for adopting good listening habit. There are following guidelines for good listening:
1. Preparation before listening: As already mentioned that listening plays important role in communication. So one should prepare himself before starting listening. In preparation, there are following guidelines:
(i) Stop talking: - Human brain can perform one activity efficiently at a time, so during listening there should be no talking by the listener.
(ii) Remove distraction: - Noisy fan, traffic noise, entrance of unauthorized persons may interrupt the listening process. All these barriers should be removed.
(iii) Good environmental conditions: - There should not be extraordinary cold or warm environment and ventilation should be proper.
2. Listening to understand, not to refute: There could be many topics to which the listener has reservations. Apart from these reservations, the listener should try his best to understand the message.
3. Focusing the attention: There may be many objects on which the listener should construct a mental outline of where the speaker is going in his speech.
4. Concentration on context: The listener should keep in mind the background and theme of speech. This thing enables him to absorb the material quickly and efficiently.
5. Taking notes: Listener should keep on taking notes. Hence, he should jot down ideas rather than sentences. In this way, he/she could make the message safe for a long time.
6. Curbing the impulse to interrupt: One should avoid interrupting the speech until the speaker invites questions. This habit puts the speaker and listener both at ease.
7. Asking questions: Asking right question on right time is quite different form interruption. Listener should have an idea to know right time to ask questions.
8. Summary & evaluation: The listener should summarize and speech but not during listening process.