Listening is a part of communication which requires one person to receive a message conveyed by another, and then process this message mentally. Its objective is to gain understanding of the message, so that a response will be made accordingly.
Importance of Listening Skill
In any area that requires communication, listening takes on a vital role. Without listening, communication will not be complete. More often than not, people mistakenly put a lot of weight on speaking and the ability to deliver a message clearly and confidently, but they forget that the communication process will be incomplete if this message is not received and processed effectively by the listener.
In a business lecture, for example, if a participant is not able to listen well to what the speaker has said, it will be difficult for him to learn valuable insights from the event, defeating the purpose of his reason for being there in the first place. In dealing with clients and customers, listening is also considered important. If one aims to gain people’s trust and acceptance, he has to be able to establish connection with them and at the same time, make them feel appreciated and respected. And what better way to do this than to make sure they know that you are listening to them – to their situation and to their concerns?
On a more personal setting, listening is also essential for relationships to work. Husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and colleagues, and even employers and employees need to listen to each other to strengthen bonds and develop a culture of open communication and trust, which is necessary to foster teamwork and synergy.
Listening Skill Assessment and Barriers to Listening
The best way to conduct a self assessment for listening is by asking yourself the following questions, after listening to someone:
• Did you understand what was said? (message)
• Did you understand how it was being said? (tone)
Answering “Yes” to these questions would mean there was comprehension and listening was effective; however, if the answer is “No” to any or all of these questions, then it would indicate that listening skills need further improvement.
There are several barriers to listening such as:
1. Making assumptions
4. Distractions such as noise and personal problems
5. Being preoccupied and multi-tasking
6. Language barrier
These things will hinder a person from fully listening to the speaker and the message that is being conveyed, so it is important to avoid or manage these barriers whenever communication takes place.
How to Enhance Listening Skill
In an effort to improve one’s listening skill, it is necessary to always stay focused on the person and the message. Many things can take our attention away from our subject and we must do our best to prevent them. Another way to improve listening is to take down notes. Keep in mind that no matter how good our memory is, there are events and information that could easily be forgotten. To promote understanding, taking down of information can prove to be a very useful technique.
Listening between the lines could also help to gain better understanding of the message being relayed to us. Many times, people will not know how to effectively deliver a message to a listener and if one does not know how to “listen between the lines” then it would be difficult to comprehend the message.
Actively listen to the speaker by using techniques such as paraphrasing and summarizing. Paraphrasing is to relay the message back to the speaker using your own words, whereas summarizing is the restatement of the key elements in the message. These two techniques will make the speaker feel that you are interested in them and in what they have to say.
Lastly, it is always necessary to remember that the purpose of listening is to understand; it is not intended just for the sake of being able to answer or reply to someone. Therefore, one must always be open to the ideas and information being conveyed, and avoid the tendency to make assumptions and generalizations. According to Stephen Covey, in his best-selling book entitled “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” one must seek first to understand so that he can be understood.