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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Listening- The Critical Part of Effective Communication

Listening, really listening, is the hardest thing to do and the highest form of courtesy!

Listening is an essential part of being a good communicator but it is a skill that is perilously close to becoming extinct. As more and more of our communication becomes visual and text driven, i.e. Internet, text and computers we are forgetting how to listen. Listening involves both:

  • the ability to understand what is being said, and
  • the ability to organize and analyze the messages in order to retain them for subsequent use.

There are two types of listening:

  1. Casual listening
  2. Critical listening

Casual listening

Casual listening is what we tend to do most of the time. We are only half listening, we retain bits of the conversation, we discard other parts of it. As a result you often get the following scenario between two people: ‘

Don’t forget we’re going out tonight.’

‘Are we? You didn’t mention it.’

‘Yes, I did, I told you two days ago. You weren’t listening.’

We often switch off, particularly when we are listening to someone we know well.

Critical listening

Critical listening requires concentration and stamina. Here you are making a real effort to understand the other person’s point of view. You are listening to them, retaining what they say, storing it away and then retrieving some of it later when you need it. These skills are essential in a sales situation and rather important too in an interview. If you have listened, and I mean really listened, it is highly likely that you will come away with a headache. You have exercised your mental powers to extremes! In both the above situations you are not only trying to concentrate on what the other person is saying but you are also reading their body language, thinking about your own body language and formulating your response to their questions, plus thinking of your own questions to ask. Is it no wonder you end up with a headache?