“You’re not listening!” Has anyone said that to you, or you to others?
Listening is the first essential of good communication. An effective communicator will spend more time listening than talking. It is difficult to discover another person’s needs or requirements if you are doing all the telling. Good communication is about listening, but it is more than just hearing words, it’s active listening.
There is a difference between hearing and listening.
Hear: to perceive or sense sounds by the ear.
Listen: to make a conscious effort to hear something or someone.
Listening is complex, time-consuming and difficult. You spend more time listening than reading, writing or speaking.
So why, sometimes, do we have difficulty listening to people, why is it that we appear not to have heard what was said?
There can be a number of reasons, including:
The other party may be poor communicators
They may conceal their real concerns
They may lack logical organisation
They may have annoying personal habits
They may not be interesting or entertaining
They may be too detailed or too broad.
Nevertheless, we must listen. How else will we know what is on their mind? By our listening well, we will compensate for their deficiencies in communication.
LEVELS OF LISTENING
This is where we only half listen to what is said. Involves the least amount of concentration. Such lack of concentration and interest can be quickly conveyed to the other party and misunderstandings can easily take place.
Marginal listening is the most dangerous level in which to be. Observe people in this state of listening: blank stares, replies that don’t relate to statements or questions, nervous mannerisms and gestures that tend to annoy others.
This requires more concentration and attention than marginal listening. We are trying to hear what the customer is saying, but we are not necessarily understanding what is being said. What we are doing is being too subjective in our listening; we are categorising the statement and concentrating on preparing a reply. Evaluative listening may appear to quicken the communication process; why listen and ask questions when we know the answers? We know what the person means and we will tell them, so we can move the discussion along.
An active listener tries to be objective and attentive. An active listener refrains from evaluating the customer’s message and, within reason, tries to see the other party’s point of view. To emphasise, not necessarily sympathise. Attention is paid not only to the words, but also to the feelings and thoughts of the other party. Active listening requires great concentration and can be tiring, but the rewards are well worth the effort. It requires us to indicate, through verbal and non-verbal signs, that we are actively listening.
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