Listening is a skill that underpins all positive human relationships.
Good listening skills are free and can benefit our personal as well as our professional lives. It can improve our confidence and self-esteem.
Listening is more than hearing. Hearing is the sounds that enter your ears. It is a physical process that happens automatically.
Listening, however, requires more than that: it requires focus and concentrated effort, both mental and sometimes physical as well.
Listening means paying attention not only to the narrative, but how it is being told by the use of body language and voice, and how the other person uses theirs. In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages and clues.
Listening is not a passive process. In fact, the listener can, and should, be at least as engaged in the process as the speaker. The phrase ‘active listening’ is used to describe this process of being fully involved.
Adults spend an average of around three quarters of their time engaged in some form of communication.
Why is listening important?
- It helps us to focus on the messages being communicated, whilst avoiding distractions and preconceptions.
- To gain an accurate understanding into the speaker’s point of view and ideas.
- To show interest, and concern for what the speaker has to say, therefore enabling us to develop empathy and kindness.
- To encourage the speaker to communicate with openness, and honesty.
- It means we put the speaker first.
- It builds the speakers trust in us.
Barriers to Effective Listening
A common problem is that instead of listening closely to what someone is saying, we often get distracted after a sentence or two and instead start to think about what we are going to say in reply. This means that we are not fully listening to the rest of the speaker’s message.
It is a common habit for the listener to use the spare time while listening to think about what else they that day must do, rather than concentrating on what the speaker is saying.
The clarity of what the speaker is saying can also affect our listening skills. Generally, we find It is more difficult, for example, to focus on somebody who is speaking very fast or very quietly, especially if they are conveying complex information. It is always best to let the speaker know when this happens, that way that can adjust the speed or tone.
Generally, we find it much harder to control our body language, and you are likely to show your lack of interest by lack of eye contact, or posture. The speaker will notice this, and will probably stop the conversation and could feel offended or hurt.