Good listening skills are crucial for success in school and in life. To listen well per se, is a process of interpretation (attaching meaning to what is heard), and is actually a bit complicated. Each of us has peculiar listening habits, but most of us have common listening problems which usually compete with our attention to what we are supposed to be listening to. Listening barriers like passive listening, having drifting thoughts or distractions, and even having prejudices or biases get in the way to paying attention and careful listening.
We actually spend more time listening than reading, writing or speaking through lectures, meetings, plain talks or conversations or in other forms of communication. We develop good relationships when we listen well, but we destroy relationships when we don’t listen.
A case study (in 1988) revealed that better listeners are more upwardly mobile within an organization. These better listeners maintained eye contact when listening to others, appeared attentive to the person they were talking to, and were following directions demonstrating that they did listen. Said case study also mentioned that ineffective listening behaviors included not following directions, not reacting to the message, talking to others while someone is speaking, and not recalling anything from the message.
Although listening with full distinction and attention rarely occurs, we can train ourselves to listen better in four simple ways by: knowing our reason and purpose for listening, devising methods to easily understand what is heard, designing questions that will assess the message being delivered by the speaker in a specific situation, and, by practicing good note-taking (recall) techniques.
Being an active listener can keep our attention centered and more focused on the message. Listening is one of those skills we need to survive in our family and social life, and even in the worlds of work and politics. We need to listen to understand.
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