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  • 1. LISTENING SKILLS Listening skills are crucial to a manager. Many managers are good at hearing but poor at listening. Hearing is largely a passive activity; we hear even when we sleep. Listening on the other hand requires involvement and action. Listening and hearing are not the same. Hearing is the first stage of listening. Hearing occurs when your ears pick up sound waves which are then transported to your brain. This stage is your sense of hearing. Listening is a communication process and, to be successful, is an active process. In other words, you must be an active participant in this communication process. In active listening, meaning and evaluation of a message must take place before a listener can respond to a speaker. Therefore, the listener is actively working while the speaker is talking Let us consider the breakdown of the various common elements involved in communication. 40% - Listening 35% - Talking 16% - Reading 9% - Writing Thus we can clearly observe that listening is indeed an important communication skill which has to be learnt. LEVELS OF LISTENING Level 1 Listening on and off: Tuning in and tuning out: Being aware of the presence of others, but mainly paying attention to yourself. Half listening: Following the discussion only long enough to get a chance to talk. Quiet, passive listening: Listening, but not responding. Little effort is made to listen; actually, hearing is going on but very little real listening is going on. Often, a person at this level is making believe that he is paying more attention while really, he or she is thinking of other things. They are generally more interested in talking, rather than listening.
  • 2. Level 2 Hearing sounds and words, but not really listening: At this level, people stay at the surface of communication and do not listen to the deeper meaning of what is being said. They are trying to hear what the speaker is saying, but they are not making the effort to understand what the speaker means. They tend to be more concerned with content rather than feelings. They do not really participate in the conversation. This level of listening can be dangerous because misunderstandings may occur since the listener is only slightly concentrating on what is said, the speaker may have the false sense that the other person is really listening, when he is not. Level 3 Active Listening: At this level, people try to put themselves in the speakers place – they try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Some characteristics of this level include: taking in only the main ideas, acknowledging and answering, not letting yourself be distracted, paying attention to the speaker’s total communication – including body language. Active listening requires that you listen not only for the content of what is being spoken but, more importantly, for what the meaning and feelings of the speaker are. You do this by showing that you are really listening both verbally and nonverbally. TYPES OF LISTENING In an organization we often find ourselves doing one of the following three types of listening: Informational listening: The goal of informational listening is to understand and remember what is important to in a message. How well we remember and understand the message determines our success as an informational listener. Most informational listening takes place in formal or semi formal environments such as meetings, conferences, seminars etc. For example, we listen to lectures or instructions from teachers—and what we learn depends on how well we listen. In the workplace, we listen to understand new practices or procedures—and how well we perform depends on how well we listen. Evaluative listening: Evaluative listening is particularly pertinent when the other person is trying to persuade us, perhaps to change our behavior and maybe even to change our beliefs The goal of evaluative listening is to make a decision or accept or reject an idea. Making a right decision often depends on how well you listen. Typically also we weigh up the pros and cons of an argument, determining whether it makes sense logically as well as whether it is helpful to us. Evaluative listening is also called critical, judgmental or interpretive listening.
  • 3. Empathetic listening: A manager usually uses this kind of listening when acting as a soundboard for other’s ideas or when coaching or counseling someone. Listening to the feelings of the speaker is an important part of this type of listening. It is listening effectively to understand the person fully both emotionally as well as intellectually. In addition to these three main types of listening, there are several other types of listening such as those listed below: Discriminative listening: Where the listener is able to identify and distinguish inferences or emotions through the speaker’s change in voice tone, their use of pause, etc. Some people are extremely sensitive in this way, while others are less able to pick up these subtle cues. Where the listener may recognize and pinpoint a specific engine fault, a familiar laugh from a crowded theatre or their own child’s cry in a noisy playground. This ability may be affected by hearing impairment. Appreciative Listening: Where the listener gains pleasure/satisfaction from listening to a certain type of music for example. Appreciative sources might also include particular charismatic speakers or entertainers. These are personal preferences and may have been shaped through our experiences and expectations. Biased listening: Biased listening happens when the person hears only what they want to hear, typically misinterpreting what the other person says based on the stereotypes and other biases that they have. Such biased listening is often very evaluative in nature. Pretend listening: The listener behaves as though the communicated message is listened to and understood through facial expressions while in reality the listener is not listening at all. The listeners often fix their eyes on the speaker and try to project themselves as good listeners. Selective listening: In this case the listener does not listen to the full message being communicated, instead he/she selects a desired part of the message and analyses it and ignores the remaining part of the message.
  • 4. Listening assessment Listening skills Yes No Do you concentrate ? Do you acknowledge ? Do you exhibit emotional control ? Do you structure your listening ? Can you empathize with the listener ? Do you attach meaning : Through stories? Through memories? Do you evaluate the message? Do you respond and remember? Are you and the speaker exchanging non-verbals ? Eye contact Facial feedback Gestures Do you judge content, not delivery ? Do you take notes? Do you repeat information? Do you avoid Interruptions Prejudging Do you provide feedback by paraphrasing?
  • 5. Listening Barriers 1) Hearing problem: It interferes with the process of listening but such a problem is physiological and not intentional 2) Rapid thought process: The speaker talks about 125 words per minute while the listener can process information at the rate of 500 words per minute. This leaves ample of idle time left for the mind to wander to other matters rather than concentrate on the speaker’s message. Usually this takes place when the speaker speaks slowly. 3) Ego: (Self- centered attitude) Thinking that one’s ideas are more important than those of the other or I’m always right and the others are wrong is a major stumbling block in the way of listening. Effective listening needs an open mind and a self free from negative emotions 4) Information overload: It's a fact that we give too much information in a speech or presentation. We use extensive bullet points or lists such as these! We often have more than one PowerPoint slide for each 5 minutes of talk (sometimes many more). We use too many examples, analogies or case studies. In all cases the listening powers of the audience are being dealt a disservice. 5) Noise Not all our public speaking will be in a rarefied auditorium with pitch perfect acoustics. This is a barrier which most of the speakers face. The only solution is -- speak up, tone up and emphasize the key points. 6) Selective listening: Due to various reasons listeners tend to listen to and interpret a desired part of the message and leave the undesired part, hence the entire process of communication becomes ineffective 7) Cultural differences: Present business organizations with their operations transcending local or regional boundaries employ people from different regions or communities with different cultural backgrounds if they try and speak a common language their accent is different this creates a problem in listening to people from different cultures. 8) Hasty evaluation The listener interprets or comprehends the message before listening to the entire message.
  • 6. Other barriers are : • forming a judgment or evaluation before we understand what is being said • making unjustified inferences about the meaning of what is being said • attributing our own thoughts and ideas to the speaker causing distortion • being inattentive • having a closed mind • fear of being changed ourselves • excessive and incessant talking Guidelines to effective listening • Stop talking- listen openly and with empathy to the other person • Be patient ad give the speaker sufficient time to clear his point; do not interrupt him • Ask the other person for as much detail as he/she can provide; paraphrase what the other is saying to make sure you understand it and check for understanding • Respond in an interested way that shows you understand the problem and the employee's concern • Plan to report the message to someone within 8 hrs. This coaxes a listener to concentrate and remember. • Attend to non-verbal cues, body language, not just words; pay attention to both emotional and cognitive messages (eg. anger) • Stay in an active body state to aid listening; fight distractions; use eye contact, encouraging gestures • Ask the other for his views or suggestion • Be an opportunist- Do your best to find areas of interest between the speaker and you. Ask yourself “what can I get, out of what is said?” • maintain the self confidence and self-esteem of the other person • lead by example • (at work) take notes; decide on a specific follow-up action and date • Be careful that your listening is not selective or partial but total and deep