Active Listening

 


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Often times people assume that listening is the same as hearing; that is instinctive. Unfortunately, because of this false misconception, little effort is made to develop effective listening skills. Many consequences can result from the lack of use of this critical skill. Problems occur such as misunderstandings, confusion, hurt feelings, incomplete instructions, loss of important information, embarrassment, and frustration. All of which could be alleviated if proper listening techniques were learned and practiced.

Webster defines the word listen as:

“to pay attention to sound, to hear something with thoughtful attention: to give consideration, to be alert to catch an unexpected sound. "

Listening is one of the most important, yet most under practiced and least often used skill in human behavior. Researchers have calculated that close to 75% of oral communication is ignored, misunderstood, or quickly forgotten. Obviously, good communication is a critical element in an efficient and productive work place.

The five key skills for effective listening and understanding:

1. Show interest.
2. Focus on key issues.
3. Summarize and check for understanding.
4. Listen for common threads.
5. Explore and respond to feelings.

Effective listening develops and keeps business associations strong, personal relationships healthy, and provides a basis for trust, credibility and understanding between people. Active listening can accomplish a great deal and make a huge difference in your own effectiveness and efficiency. Listening is a commitment and a compliment. It is a commitment to understanding how other people feel, how they see their world. It means putting aside your own prejudices and beliefs, your anxieties and self-interest, so that you can step behind the other person’s eyes. It allows you to look at things from his or her perspective. Listening is a compliment because it says to the other person: “I care about what is happening to you, your life and your experience are important. " People usually respond to the compliment of listening by liking and appreciating you.

Remember, it is dangerous not to listen! You miss important information and you do not see problems coming. When you try to understand why people do things, you have to mind-read and guess to fill in the gaps in your listening skills.

J. Wentworth
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