7 Important Ways Through Which You Can Improve Your Listening Skills
1. Good Listening:
Communication is essentially a two-way process. It is a process that involves at least two parties—the sender and the receiver or the speaker and the listener. The purpose of any communication is not achieved till the receiver receives the message which the sender puts across.
There is often an expectation that the receiver will not only receive the message, but also interpret it, understand it, use it and provide the requisite feedback about having received the message and acted on it.
It is essential to note that sender and receiver are not always fixed permanent positions. One is a sender or a receiver for a particular piece of communication or message transmission.
However, communication is by and large an interactive process and the roles are seldom fixed. A receiver becomes the sender and the sender becomes the receiver. Good communication, therefore, calls for listening skills. A good speaker must necessarily be a good listener.
In an interactive communication, listening accounts for about 50 per cent of verbal communication. Both the parties keep changing their roles so that objectives of the communication are achieved in full, as intended. If it is an organized speech or lecture, listening should be full-time.
That is why it is a said that good listening is as much hard work as good speaking. While good listening leads to proper understanding, poor listening can lead to misunderstanding and incomplete understanding.
Good listening creates a positive environment and motivates the communicator. In order to be a good listener, it is necessary to appreciate the listening process and master the listening skills.
2. Listening Process:
More than an act, listening is a process. It is a lot more than hearing. It starts with hearing but goes beyond. In other words, hearing is a necessary but not sufficient condition for listening. Listening involves hearing with attention. Listening is a process that calls for concentration. Hearing refers to the perception of sound with the ear. Hearing is a physical act. One hears a noise, whether one wants to or not. If hearing is impaired, a hearing aid is used. Hearing aids amplify the sound.
Listening is more comprehensive than hearing. Listening is done not only with the ear, but also with the other sense organs. While listening, one should also be observant.
In other words, listening has to do with the ears, as well as with the eyes and the mind. Hearing is physical, while listening is intellectual, involving both the body and the mind.
Listening is to be understood as the total process that involves hearing with attention, being observant and making interpretations. Good communication is essentially an interactive process.
Listening calls for participation and involvement. It is quite often a dialogue rather than a monologue. It is necessary for the listener to be interested and also show or make it abundantly clear that one is interested in knowing what the other person has to say. Good listeners put the speaker at ease.
The listener can and should help the speaker in establishing a wavelength through which communication traverses smoothly.
The listening process can be understood best by looking at various words which are associated with listening. These are hearing, decoding,’ sensing, understanding, comprehending, filtering, absorbing, assimilating, empathizing, remembering and responding. Each one of these plays a role in making listening complete and effective. There is also another set of words which can be associated with the listening process. These are attentiveness, focus, willingness, patience, attitude and concentration. The process of listening, to be effective, should encompass all these. The process of listening involves:
Together, these components ensure that the listening part of the communication process becomes meaningful and effective.
This is the first essential step in listening. It relates to the sensory perception of sound. The communicator expects the receiver to ‘lend his or her ears’. There should be a certain attentiveness or concentration in receiving verbal messages. Hearing relates to receiving the words sent out to the speaker for further processing by the listener.
The next step relates to decoding. This involves sensing and filtering of the verbal messages. Hearing the words apart, other sensory perceptions come into play. Decoding takes place as a conscious exercise. Listening also involves filtering, whereby the message received is classified as wanted or unwanted, useful or otherwise.
That which is considered useless or unwanted is discarded. This filtering process is subjective in nature and a person chooses to retain only that which makes sense to him. Sense of appeal and sense of judgement come into play during sensing and filtering the message. The message is thereafter sent to the next process.
The next level of listening consists of comprehending or understanding. The filtered message assumes a meaning. This activity can also be described as absorbing, grasping or assimilating. The listener has now understood what the speaker has tried to convey.
The message received has been heard, sensed, filtered and interpreted. In doing so, the listener has brought into play the listener’s own knowledge, experience, perception and cognitive power. The listener has used not only the body, but also the intellect in grasping the meaning of the message. The verbal message apart, the non-verbal communication has also been studied and noted.
This is another important facet of listening. Messages received are meant, quite often, not just for immediate consideration and action, but also for future use. In fact, very often, although the absorption takes place in the present, its use may take place some time in the future. Memorizing the message, therefore, assumes significance. Remembering relates to a process whereby the assimilated message is stored in memory to facilitate future recall.
Response of the listener may take place at the end of the verbal communication or even earlier. When it is intended to provide feedback to the communicator, response occurs towards the end. If however, there is a need to seek clarification or a need to empathize with the speaker, it may take place earlier. This may take the form of prodding, prompting or reassuring that the message is being well received.