Often, most Coaches and Trainers spend a lot of time of the topic of Listening. Why? Have you ever wondered? What is so great about a simple task like listening? We listen all the time. It does not require much effort.
Yes! I agree with you that Listening or shall we say hearing does not take much effort as we have been doing so, for all our lives. But, there is a huge difference between Hearing and Listening.
There are several misconceptions about listening. The first of these is listening and hearing are the same thing. Hearing is the physiological process of registering sound waves as they hit the eardrum. We have no control over what we hear. The sounds we hear have no meaning until we give them their meaning in context. Listening on the other hand is an active process that constructs meaning from both verbal and nonverbal messages.
When we hear, we let the sound waves fall on our ears and we respond to it depending our mood and focus on that stimulus at the time.
But Active Listening, means we are completely focussed on what is being said to us either by a person or a medium (audio-machine of some kind e.g. ipod, radio, tape, etc)
Active Listening is very important especially for those in professions like, Sales, Legal, Doctors, CAs, etc where the success of your profession is overly dependent on what your clients are saying verbally. Most of the inter-personal problems in life also can be avoided, if effective listening is done by all parties involved (e.g. Boss- Subordinate, Husband-Wife, Siblings, Father-Son, Friends, etc.). When you do not listen with your entire focus on the person talking to you, you may miss out on certain important clues (words or statements), which might be useful to you to effectively do your job and make a success out of that particular deal.
An active listener is able to listen to the speaker, analyse, interpret and internalise the information and then suggest a proper and relevant solution/ outcome for the set objective e.g. sales of your product etc. An active listener is able to overcome objections effectively and help the speaker in making a proper and effective decision towards completing the transaction. The proper use of active listening results in getting people to open up, avoiding misunderstandings, resolving conflict, and building trust. In a medical context, benefits may include increased patient satisfaction, improved cross-cultural communication, improved outcomes, or decreased litigation, etc.
Barriers to active listening
All elements of communication, including listening, may be affected by barriers that can impede the flow of conversation e.g. distractions, trigger words, vocabulary, and limited attention span.
Listening barriers may be psychological (e.g. emotions) or physical (e.g. noise and visual distraction). Cultural differences including speakers' accents, vocabulary, and misunderstandings due to cultural assumptions often obstruct the listening process.
Frequently, the listener's personal interpretations, attitudes, biases, and prejudices lead to ineffective communication.
Overcoming listening barriers
To use this listening technique to improve interpersonal communication, one puts personal emotions aside during the conversation, asks questions and repeats back to the speaker to clarify and understand, and also tries to overcome all types of environment distractions. Judging or arguing prematurely is a result of holding onto a strict personal opinion. This hinders the ability to be able to listen closely to what is being said. Furthermore, the listener considers the speaker's background, both cultural and personal, to benefit as much as possible from the communication process.
Eye contact and appropriate body languages are seen as important components to active listening. Effective listening involves focusing on what the speaker is saying; at times the listener might come across certain key words which may help them understand the speaker. The stress and intonation may also keep them active and away from distractions. Taking notes on the message can aid in retention.
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