Listening is an essential part of the communication process. A sender encodes his or her ideas or thoughts into some form that is transmitted to the receiver. The receiver must perceive the message and accurately decode it so that an understanding of the message is achieved. The receiver then tells the sender that the message has been received and understood through feedback.
Listening requires being active, showing understanding, acknowledging the other person, being sensitive and concentrating. It means having an open and positive attitude. Listening effectively means really wanting to listen before responding to what is being said.
We often don’t consciously pay attention to others who are communicating with us (or we don’t pay attention enough). We therefore often take our cues from the setting or the circumstances, a person’s role, a person’s relationship to us, personality factors, or the person’s knowledge on an issue. In familiar situations we consequently frequently only hear what we expect to hear and not what is actually being communicated. We therefore need to convert our more passive and distracted listening habits into more focused and active ones.
Listening as an active process should therefore involve:
- being motivated and wanting to listen
- paying attention, being aware and interested in understanding
- sharing responsibility for communication with the speaker
- using learned skills i.e. “how to listen”
In addition to the more general requirements described above, as the listening diagram shown here suggests, there are seven key ways in which we can better listen or help another person to communicate with us. In summary, these are to Ensure Comfort, Be Here now, Provide support, Relax, Show interest, Question (gently) and Let the other person talk.