Listening Skills: Daydreaming While Listening
Listening skills are a vital part of the oral communication process. As an active listener you learn to hear what people are really saying. Good listening requires energy – we hear the speaker, select information, interpret information and respond in just a few seconds. Of course, only information to which we pay attention can enter into our thinking and lead to understanding. But we often do not consciously pay attention. Instead, we take our cues from personalities, a person’s role, a person’s relationship to us, past knowledge of an issue, the specific occasion or circumstances. Our motives and attitudes can also influence our attention.
Another key factor in effective listening that can inhibit our efforts is to suspend all judgment about the person and about what they are talking about. The best way to go about this is as follows:
- Acknowledge the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Ask questions to show your interest and give a reflective response to show that you understand how the speaker feels. By being open to the speaker’s ideas you become a source of support to the speaker rather than a source of anxiety. Talking candidly with others helps us get to know ourselves and helps others get to know us. We build rewarding relationships by communicating openly and fully with other people.
- Don’t devalue the speaker’s ideas, problems, wants or concerns. Try not to mentally debate what is being said by the speaker and avoid passing judgment verbally or through your body language. Keep an open mind and avoid thinking mechanically. As a listener you need to understand your biases and keep them under control. You cannot expect others to listen to you if you dismiss or criticize their ideas and attitudes. Mutual respect helps to build good communication and good relationships. Show the speaker that you are truly listening.
- Avoid giving opinions, providing instructions, making suggestions, moralizing or criticizing; instead patiently allow the speaker to finish.
- Listen to others in a way that you would like to be listened to. Give the speaker time to convey their message. Avoid giving opinions, solutions or an opposite point of view. If you do interrupt the speaker admit your bad habit, apologize and allow the speaker to continue, for example, “I’m sorry, I just interrupted you, please go on …”. Be patient with yourself and the speaker. Allow the speaker to finish before finally evaluating the message.
- Remember that active listening is about receiving information accurately. Set aside your own ego, keep your emotions under control and focus on the message. Be careful to judge the message rather than the speaker.
It will of course be apparent that listening intently or with high levels of empathy is a skill that can only be developed over time and with lots of practice. In addition, we need to learn from each encounter that we have (particularly when we have not performed as well in listening to the other person as we might have done).
The featured video clip is drawn from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder Listening Skills Video Vignette Set.