Active Listening

To be a good communicator be aware of these barriers.

To be a good communicator be aware of these barriers.

More on communication skills read here

Hearing and listening are not the same thing. Hearing is the act of perceiving sound. It is involuntary and simply refers to the reception of aural stimuli. Listening is a selective activity which involves the reception and the interpretation of aural stimuli. It involves decoding the sound into meaning.

Listening is divided into two main categories: passive and active. Passive listening is little more that hearing. It occurs when the receiver of the message has little motivation to listen carefully, such as we often do when listening to music, television, or when being polite.

People speak at 100 to 175 words per minute (WPM), but they can listen intelligently at 600 to 800 WPM. Since only a part of our mind is paying attention, it is easy to go into mind drift—thinking about other things while listening to someone. The cure for this is active listening—which involves listening with a purpose. It may be to gain information, obtain directions, understand others, solve problems, share interest, see how another person feels, show support, etc. It requires that the listener attends to the words and the feelings of the sender for understanding. It requires the receiver to hear the various messages, understand the meaning, and then verify the meaning by offering feedback. It takes the same amount or more energy than speaking. The following are a few traits of active listeners:

  • Spend more time listening than talking.
  • Do not finish the sentences of others.
  • Do not answer questions with questions.
  • Are aware of biases. We all have them. We need to control them.
  • Never daydreams or become preoccupied with their own thoughts when others talk.
  • Let the other speakers talk. Do not dominate the conversations.
  • Plan responses after the others have finished speaking, NOT while they are speaking.
  • Provide feedback, but do not interrupt incessantly.
  • Analyze by looking at all the relevant factors and asking open-ended questions. Walk others through by summarizing.
  • Keep conversations on what others say, NOT on what interests them.
  • Take brief notes. This forces them to concentrate on what is being said.
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