Listening as a Communication Skill
People communicate with words, expressions, and even in silence, and your attention to them will make you a better communicator. Listening to others commonly consumes more of business employee’s time than reading writing and speaking combined. It is likely the most important communication skill and an important social tool. Listening skills depend on the ability to receive and decode both verbal and nonverbal messages. This concerns an individual’s perception and how capable they are of discerning the true intent of an individual’s communication.
Benefits of Effective Listening
Good listeners are liked by others b/c they satisfy the basic human need of being heard and being wanted. They have the ability to separate fact from fiction, cope effectively with false persuasion, and avoid having other uses them for personal gain. Listening leads to sensitivity and tolerance toward key individuals who are critical to the organization’s success, such as employees, customers, and suppliers. Those who listen are engaged and constantly learning – gaining knowledge and skills that lead to increased creativity, job performance, advancement, and satisfaction. Finally, job satisfaction increases when people know what is going on, when they are heard, and when they participate in the mutual trust that develops from good communication.
Listening for a Specific Purpose
The potential purposes of Listening include:
- Interacting socially – Casual listening includes for pleasure, recreation, amusement, relaxation, etc.
- Receiving information – Search for data or information
- Solving problems (Intensive Listening) – Listening to obtain information. Solve problems or persuade or dissuade. Involves greater use of analytical ability to proceed through problem-solving.
- Sharing feelings (Empathetic Listening) – Empathy occurs when a person attempts to share another’s feelings or emotions. Extremely valuable skill client relationships and in interpersonal relations.
Bad Listening Habits
Some of the more common bad habits when listening:
- Faking Attention
- Allowing Disruptions
- Dismissing Subjects as Uninteresting
- Failing to Observe Nonverbal Aids
Habits for Good or Positive Listening
Be an active listener. Take positive steps to be involved. Suggestions for Effective Listening include:
- Minimize environmental and mental distractions
- Get in touch with the speaker (such as making eye contact)
- Use your knowledge of speakers to your advantage
- Let the speaker know you are actively involved.
- Do Not Interrupt the Speaker
- Ask reflective questions that assess understanding.
- Use probing prompts to direct the speaker
- Use lag time wisely
- Be accepting and non-judgmental