A necessary requirement for having strong people skills is the ability to communicate effectively. Effective communication is always a two-way process: one person talks and the other listens. You must understand that this is the basic guiding principle in communication. So, after polishing and mastering the art of expressing your thoughts and feelings effectively, the next goal should be to hone your listening ability.
With poor listening skills, you will have difficulties in properly communicating your message to others. In turn, poor communication skills also hinder your aim of developing good people skills because of the plain fact that you cannot engage in a good exchange of conversation between or among individuals.
Improving your listening ability is not as easy as it seems. Just as developing your speaking ability is a gradual process, so does your skill in listening. You need to reassess your listening ability and find out the factors that hinder you from demonstrating effective listening.
There are many barriers that can hamper your ability to listen well. Some of which you can control, while some factors are beyond your control. Yet, there are ways for you to exercise good listening. The key in improving your listening skill is consistency and regularly applying it in every communication instance.
Three Fundamental Listening Approaches
Competitive or Combative Listening
This mode of listening is demonstrated when you are more focused and interested in emphasizing your viewpoint rather than taking time to find out the other person’s understanding of the topic. You either spot for any weak points or flaws that you can use against the speaker, or you wait for an opportunity to take the floor. You formulate rebuttals in your mind while pretending that you are lending your ears to the one talking.
Passive or Attentive Listening
This is manifested when you are paying attention and understanding what was being said but there is lack of response, which makes you a passive listener. What you understood stays as a personal assumption because you failed to verify to the speaker if you are getting it right or not.
Active or Reflective Listening
Reflective listening is considered to be the most important listening approach that does not only show genuine interest in comprehending the message of the speaker but also verifying your understanding of the person’s thoughts and feelings by responding. This is done through paraphrasing or restating your understanding of what was being said.
Advantages of Active Listening
Demonstrating active listening in communication can reap benefits for the listener in many different ways. For one, reflecting back to the speaker what is being heard and understood can eradicate false assumptions and misinterpretations which can be a cause for arguments. If you listen and understand to the person’s viewpoint, it becomes easier for you to help the person in clearing out flaws and mistakes. In the same way, you will also get the chance to find out about your own flaws.
Definitely, the exchange of ideas will be smoother since one person talks while the other listens and both are in constant understanding of what each one has to say.
Tips in Showing Effective Listening
There are many different ways and means to manifest listening effectively:
- When understanding the message, make sure that you are getting the main idea or the honest intentions of the speaker. Do this in ways like asking questions, restating, giving short spoken feedback such as “I see” and “Alright” as a signal that you are engaged in what is being said.
- Maintain good eye contact and suitable body language. When listening, give your undivided attention by facing the speaker squarely. Be cautious about your use of facial expressions and gestures.
- Be impartial and empathic in listening. Set aside personal biases or keep them in your mind if the speaker’s views do not coincide with yours.
- Display honesty for points that are not clear enough and seek for clarification. You can paraphrase based on what you understand or you can tell the speaker to say it in another way. The good thing about paraphrasing is that you will clear up any assumptions in your head. The person talking will correct you if the message you are getting is not right.