Listening is the ability to accurately receive, understand and interpret an information conveyed to you by others. The ability to listen attentively is very important to prevent misinterpretation.
It is a very important skill you can have. It plays a vital role in the result we produce at work and other sectors of life and in our relationship with those around us. It is part of the communication skill set that also includes speaking skills.
Research shows that the average person listens at only about 25% efficiency. While most people agree that listening effectively is a very important skill, some people don’t feel a strong need to improve their own skill level.
Effective listening is a way of showing concern for subordinates, and it encourages strong bonds, commitment, and builds trust.
The ability to listen attentively decreases the risk of interpersonal conflict. Effective listening is actively absorbing all the information you have received. This goes to show that the person speaking has your attention.
When you listen, show interest, and provide feedback to the speaker, the person will know that the message was well received.
5 Importance Of Being a Very Good Listener
- It is an important skill for certain occupations
- It enables you to do your job efficiently
- It helps you become a better team player
- It enables you build stronger and long lasting relationships with those around you.
- Listening attentively can help you resolve conflict
Hindrance to Listening
- Personal judgments/ biases
- Foreign accents/ speed of speech
- Distraction from environment
- Information overload (too much info to grasp all at once)
- Having a lot on your mind and some personal issues.
- Lack of patience.
A Few Career Choices That Require Adequate Listening Skills
Some career choices require good listening skills. They include:
- Mental Health Counselor
- Guidance counselor
- Social Worker
- Air Traffic Controller
- School Principal
HOW TO BUILD THIS LISTENING SKILL
1. Try to maintain eye contact:
Looking someone in the eye and maintaining eye contact during a conversation focuses your attention on the discussion. It also helps the speaker stay engaged this way they know you are focused on what they are saying. Eye contact is considered a basic ingredient of effective communication. When we talk, and look each other in the eyes, there is the desire to continue and it builds a bond. Set aside distracting thoughts.
2. Avoid distractions and be relaxed:
Try to avoid all environmental factors that can easily distract you (things like phone notifications and side talks). Relax. You don’t have to stay fixated on the person. You might want to look away every once in a while. The goal is to be attentive and get the major information that the speaker passes across.
Be careful not to be distracted by your own thoughts, feelings, or personal judgments.
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”
3. Show that you are listening:
Show that you are listening or attentive using:
A. Verbal cues
- Repeating words being said for emphasis.
- Speaking more slowly.
- Speaking a little louder.
- Use small verbal comments like yes, and “uh huh.”
B. Nonverbal cues
- Nodding your head from time to time.
- Good eye contact
- Smiling and use of other facial expressions (be careful because your facial expressions are closely tied to your emotions; they often come up unconsciously).
- Good postures like leaning forward could signify that you are engaged. In contrast, bad postures (e.g:, folding your arms across the chest) can portray lack of confidence, lack of interest, being defensive or decreased energy levels.
4. Wait for the speaker to pause incase you want to clarify anything:
When the speaker makes any point, allow him/her to finish before chipping in. If at any point you do not understand, ask the person so that you can clarify the information you got.
5. Be open minded:
Remember we all have different upbringings so your beliefs may differ. Therefore, try to listen without judging the next person or criticizing their actions and thoughts.
Try not to interrupt the person speaking. It’s just going to be a waste of time. It could also frustrate the person and stops complete understanding of the message. Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.
Be aware that sometimes, people just need a listening ear as opposed to “wanting an advice” or judgment. So try to listen and understand the need at the moment.
Remember, the only way you will know what a person is feeling is by listening.
6. Provide Feedback regularly
Our personal assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. When we listen, it’s important to properly understand what someone is saying. Adequate understanding of the discussion going on will prevent misinterpretations. To do this, you must ask questions and reflect on the points stated. You can clarify certain points by saying. “Can you explain what do you mean when you say… .” “Is this what you mean?”
You can paraphrase by saying “What I’m hearing is… ,” and “Sounds like you are saying… ,” are great ways to reflect back.
Also, try to summarize the speaker’s comments regularly to ensure clarity.