Today I will speak to you about importance of listening skills. Title of my speech is: “Listen twice as much as you speak”. That itself speaks a lot about how important listening is.
What are listening skills? How you go about developing these? And what for? What is the difference between hearing and listening?
All these questions are simply answered with the definition of communication. We communicate to exchange ideas and views. We communicate to influence people, to negotiate deals. So, it’s necessary not just to hear but to listen, understand and assimilate information contained in the speech. Then only we can respond. But if we don’t listen but just hear, and if we are only anxious to say what we want to say, the objectives of communication is lost.
Listening becomes very easy with some modification of our habits. These are:
- We must focus on the speaker. All other thoughts should not be allowed to tax the mind or to divert it. Normally as many as 50,000 thoughts come to mind each day. But with efforts, we can reduce their number. When we focus on the speaker we can surely assimilate the information the speaker is trying to convey.
- While listening in one on one conversation, we must not interrupt. Even when we don’t agree with what the speaker’s opinion is. We must be patient enabling them to complete their statements.
- Your objective of communication will be served better if you make the speaker comfortable. How do you do that? By nodding your head, other body language, gestures, or just say yes, please go ahead etc. The speaker must be sure that you are listening. Your listening makes the speaker comfortable.
- Look at the views of the speaker from their perspective. Try to examine to issue while wearing speaker’s shoes.
- You must practice patience. You must never try to complete speaker’s sentences even if you are confirming or appreciating their thoughts.
- All speakers may not be very articulate. They may have some speech blemishes. Faults like using filler words, inaccurate pronunciation, breathing at wrong place in a sentence etc. You must ignore these and focus on the idea the speaker is presenting.
- Survey reveals that 60% of the communication happens with the body language. So closely watch the body language of the speaker to understand speaker’s intent.
- Last but not the least, identify the idea by putting together the pieces of information the speaker has vocalized. All speakers are not expurts in speaking skills. So help them. It also serves you.
In today’s fast paced world, communication is extremely important. In fact, in business it is critical. However, communication is equally important at home when interacting with your own near and dear ones. It is also important during social interactions, when you meet people. There is no doubt that your speech should be very articulate. The speech will communicate the ideas that you want to convey. However it is even more important to be an active listener!
Communication is always is a two way process. Your articulate speech will go in vain if you are not listening to the person you are speaking to. You can even listen to the person with your eyes. Body language tells all. Facial expressions clearly denote whether the opposite person is listening to you or not. This means that the best vocal capabilities will not be effective until these are matched with equally attentive listening abilities.
Now let us examine how to be a good listener. Some of the qualities of a good listener are as under:
- You should listen as a friend. Often your opinion will be different from the person who is speaking. We are all individuals and therefore no two persons think alike. Listening as a friend enables reconciliation of contradicting opinions.
- Further more, it is necessary for the listener to make the speaker appreciate that you are an attentive listener. When somebody is speaking try not to fidget with anything on your table. You should not gaze at the news paper / magazine on your table. Even looking at the speaker with a lost expression, will convey an impression that you are brooding over something else and not listening to what is being said. Thus you should not only listen actively but you should also show to speaker that you’re listening actively.
- Encourage the speaker to join you in the comfort zone. When you have removed all distractions and you make the speaker aware that you are listening to them, you must encourage him to open up by your friendly nodding of the head smile wherever desirable and maintain a comfortable eye contact. While speaking on telephone you can use words and expressions like – ‘yes’,‘go ahead’, ‘hmmm’… etc. These are the voice symbols which tell the other person that you are actively listening during the phone conversation.
- Act but never react. Whenever the discussion is held around heavy states one as to be extra careful. If the speaker raises the voice it is necessary for you to maintain calm. However you must never give an impression that anybody can take you for granted. This can be achieved by not reacting to any unsavory remarks by the speaker. Instead you should use such words and expressions which will make it explicit to the intruder that you are unshakable. It is this state of calmness which will unnerve your opponent. The expression with ‘Act never react’ simply means to use your mind and reply appropriately, firmly but without raising your voice if the opponent has raised his.
- You need to comprehend whatever you have listened. It is always a good idea to summarize and repeat briefly the points you have just heard. It will help you to understand all the points clearly; and in case there is any confusion the same will be clarified there and them.
- As a good listener you have a right to ask questions to the speaker. The speaker will never object to relevant questions which are briefly asked.
To conclude, good listening skills is not a rocket science. It just requires an empathetic attitude and an attentive mind, and forms that basis for long lasting relationships.