With all the advances in communication mankind has made, there is still an area of communication that has been neglected. The art of listening is a skill men and women often fail to develop.
Learning the listening process, practicing with a simple listening exercise, you can start improving your listening skills.
What is your listening efficiency?
What is involved in effective listening?
How can you improve your listening?
Successful communication involves more than imparting, sharing or conveying of ideas and feelings. It also involves receiver understanding and accepting or rejecting the information and then acting.
Someone could communicate that there is a fire and you need to get to safety. If you do not believe it, the communication was not successful.
A failure to successfully communicate could be because of numerous reasons.
Sometimes the spam filters of our brain could prevent information from entering. These are the filters that make us not listen to what is being said.
Sometimes we fail to listen because we are preoccupied, are too busy or there is just too much on our mind. Suppose you just heard some really bad news. News that was upsetting like the death of a loved one. How well will you be able to listen following such an incident?
With out the above challenges, how efficient are you at listening? Are you able to turn off the noise, the numerous things that occupy our minds when someone is trying to communicate with you?
In verbal communication, listening is the ability to hear and give attention to what is being said. It is an art and it can be mastered. To be successful in life it helps to be a good listener. To be a successful manager, leader or public speaker, it is essential to be an efficient listener.
Sensing or hearing the message. We have the ability to listen four times faster than a person can talk. To be effective, we will need to focus our minds on what is being said. This can be improved by looking directly at the person who is speaking. Look at the body language. Listen for tone and intonation.
Understanding or processing and interpreting the message is next.
Repeat back to the communicator and in your own words, ask if you have it right. Even if you think you will disagree, try to say it as if you support what is being said.
Evaluation comes next. We sort and classify what we hear. What are the implications, the applications, benefit or potential damages of the information? You need not be speaking as soon as the communicator stops. A pause will allow you time to think.
Responding or acting on the message is the fourth stage. Depending on the message, usually some action or response is required.
Was the message a call to action. Then an action should follow or at least a reason why you cannot or will not respond.
Was it a praise or commendation. Do not put the commendation down by downplaying it. Do not put yourself down. Graciously accept the commendation and say thank you.
Was the communication discipline or correction. Remember, there are three things a professional never does when being given counsel. You should never justify, minimize or shift the blame. Note: this only applies to verbal communication.
Finally, how can you improve your listening? Try this simple exercise.
It is called the Listening Exercise.
Simply take one day and only listen. Go the whole day with out offering any advice. Do not suggest, recommend or solve any problems.
Do not in any way give feed back. Only listen.
One word of caution. Many fail miserably on the first attempt. It may take several tries to make it through a whole day only listening to what others are saying. Also, you still need to apply the sensing, understanding and evaluating. The only difference is that you will preform the understanding and evaluating in your mind and not verbally.
When told something, do not give any commendation or make any expressions of your feelings.
When asked something, try to tactfully only answer with a question.
Suppose someone comes up and asks you what you think. Your response will simply be, "Well what do you think." They say they do not know and ask again. You respond with, "What ideas have you considered so far?" With that reply, the follow up could be, "What will work and why?" or " What do you think will not work about it?"
The very best problem solving question to ask, " Can you tell me how it cannot be done?" This may need a bit of a set up. You might preface it with, "I know this may sound a bit silly but if you could indulge me,...."
Master you listening efficiency. Learn to and practice sensing, understanding, evaluating, and responding. Pause the thoughts and pressures of your life and focus on the commutation going on. Learn to listen using the Listening Exercise.
With this information, the listening exercise and practice you can start improving your speaking skills.
Listen well and prosper.
Jonathan Steele RN, a nurse, free lance public speaker, adjunct instructor, artist and sculptor, is also a recovering engineer. His latest invention, a supplemental hydrogen fuel cell for his car that gets about 48MPG on a 6 cylinder engine.