“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey. If you have the capability of hearing, you use your ears almost every moment of every day. We hear background noise such as cars, dogs barking, and the breeze. Headphones make it easier than ever to listen to our favorite music and podcasts whenever we wish. But when was the last time you truly settled in and listened to your surroundings?
Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. Listening is key to all effective communication. Without the ability to listen effectively, messages are easily misunderstood. As a result, communication breaks down and the sender of the message can easily become frustrated or irritated. If there is one communication skill you should aim to master, then listening is it.
The Importance of Listening
Listening is extremely important. It’s so important, that many top employers provide listening skills training for their employees. Which really isn’t surprising when you consider that good listening skills can lead to better customer satisfaction and greater productivity with fewer mistakes. Not to mention an increased sharing of information that in turn can lead to more creative and innovative work.
But Listening is Not the Same as Hearing
Hearing is the natural ability allows us to recognize sound. Our ears catch vibrations and our brains turn those vibrations into noise. A normal human being’s hearing capability ranges from 20 to 20000 Hertz, called as audio or sonic. Any frequency above and below the given range is known as ultrasonic and infrasonic respectively.
Listening is defined as the learned skill, in which we can receive sounds through ears, and transform them into meaningful messages. To put simply, it is the process of diligently hearing and interpreting the meaning of words and sentences spoken by the speaker, during the conversation.
Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body. In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages. Your ability to listen effectively depends on the degree to which you perceive and understand these messages. Listening is not a passive process. In fact, the listener can, and should, be at least as engaged in the process as the speaker. The phrase ‘active listening’ is used to describe this process of being fully involved.
We Spend a Lot of Time Listening
Adults spend an average of 70% of their time engaged in some sort of communication. Of this, research shows that an average of 45% is spent listening compared to 30% speaking, 16% reading, and 9% writing. That is, by any standards, a lot of time listening. It is worthwhile, therefore, taking a bit of extra time to ensure that you listen effectively.
Barriers to Effective Listening
To improve the process of effective listening, it can be helpful to turn the problem on its head and look at barriers to effective listening, or ineffective listening. For example, one common problem is that instead of listening closely to what someone is saying, we often get distracted after a sentence or two and instead start to think about what we are going to say in reply or think about unrelated things. This means that we do not fully listen to the rest of the speaker’s message.
Generally, we find it easier to focus if the speaker is fluent in their speech, has a familiar accent, and speaks at an appropriate loudness for the situation. It is more difficult, for example, to focus on somebody who is speaking very fast and very quietly, especially if they are conveying complex information. We may also get distracted by the speaker’s personal appearance or by what someone else is saying, which sounds more interesting.
These issues not only affect you, but you are likely to show your lack of attention in your body language. Generally, we find it much harder to control our body language, and you are likely to show your distraction and/or lack of interest by lack of eye contact, or posture. The speaker will detect the problem, and probably stop talking at best. At worse, they may be very offended or upset.
Remember the Purpose of Listening
There is no doubt that effective listening is an extremely important life skill. Why is listening so important? Listening serves a number of possible purposes, and the purpose of listening will depend on the situation and the nature of the communication.
- Specifically focus on the messages being communicated, avoiding distractions and preconceptions
- Gain a full and accurate understanding of the speaker’s point of view and ideas
- Critically assess what is being said
- Observe the non-verbal signals accompanying what is being said to enhance understanding
- Show interest, concern, and concentration
- Encourage the speaker to communicate fully, openly and honestly
- Develop a selflessness approach by putting the speaker first
- Arrive at a shared and agreed understanding and acceptance of both sides views
Try Active Listening in Your Next Meeting…
Often our main concern while listening is to formulate ways to respond. This is not a function of listening. We should instead try to focus fully on what is being said. Not to mention how it’s being said, in order to more fully understand the speaker.
So, with the discussion, it is quite clear that listening is one step ahead of the hearing. The hearing is simply the ability to hear. Listening is an acquired skill, which only a few people possess. While the hearing is involuntary and performed effortlessly, listening is done intentionally. If you are trying to actively live with intention, this is a great skill to practice and hone in. Active listening could be the reason you gain a new client or help you interact at your next meeting!
We Can Help
Do you feel there are areas of your business that could use some reflection? Do you feel stagnant and uninspired? onCOREventures is here to help! We will help you look inward to redefine your core values. And give you new ways to think and make decisions about your business. Please contact us today to schedule both your FREE Core Values Index Assessment and Zoom Review Session. Together we can make your small business dream a conscious reality!