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Do I Listen Effectively?
- Sarita DSouza
“We were given two ears but only one mouth, because listening is twice
as hard as talking.” Most of us do not realize the importance of listening as
a communicative tool. Yet, studies have shown that we actually spend 50%
more time listening than we do talking. Effective listening can be a precious
gift: at home or among personal relations, it builds relationships and fosters
understanding, while at work, it minimises errors, prevents wastage of time
and resolves conflicts. So here are a few tips on how to hone your listening
faculties and evolve as an effective communicator.
f effective listening is an True listening requires a “I’ll tell you what to do about
integral part of communication, temporary suspension of all ideas that,” is a response to try and offer
then it becomes necessary to - if your mind is already cluttered, a solution to the speaker’s
work out ways to develop skills it is difficult for you to be receptive. problem. But many a time, the
for effective listening. Many Some barriers to listening include speaker doesn’t want you to tell
people believe that listening is akin judging, evaluating, abusing, her how to fix it. She just wants you
to breathing - it comes analysing, ignoring or changing to listen. You have to know what
automatically. The reality, the subject, and presuming that the person expects of you.
however, is listening is a skill that communication has taken place. “I know, but let me tell you what
needs to be mastered as any other. Do we often start judging others happened to me…” is an oft-
We must listen to understand the instead of listening to understand encountered reaction. That seems
speaker. This implies that one has what they are saying? Do we pass to send out a message that you are
to listen with rapt attention. We remarks such as “That will never ignoring the listener’s problem or
need to verify whether our work” or “That’s the most stupid undermining its gravity. Changing
perception matches the speaker’s idea I ever heard”? the subject with phrases such as
intent. Evaluating is similar to judging. “That reminds me of the time. . .”
Factors that affect our ability to The listener evaluates the message halts the flow of communication.
listen include: rather than trying to understand it.
Beliefs: Some of us believe that Calling somebody (or his ideas)
the speaker has power and the “stupid” acts as an immediate
listener is weak. But the French deterrent and is a block to good
philosopher Voltaire thought communication. Phrases such as
otherwise. He said, “When I listen, “You’re trying to say that…” or
I have the power. When I speak, I “Here’s what you mean. . .” are
give it away.” aimed at evaluating the speaker. If
Barriers: A barrier is something we analyse everything the other
that hinders or restricts person is saying, we are not going
understanding. The barrier may be to be effective listeners. Questions
either physical (noise, distance) or are always better than definitive
mental (lack of concentration). statements.
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The ultimate barrier is when one Another way could be asking
presumes that communication has appropriate questions. Use of
One way to improve
taken place. One assumes having open-ended questions such as
your listening abilities
understood what the other is “Tell me more about that”
and come across as a
saying, and makes a judgment encourages the speaker to expand
based on that. on a thought. It is better to avoid
great support person is
Biases: Biases come in different close-ended questions.
to assist the speaker.
forms. Age, race, culture, gender Use of ‘involved silence,’ which
and trigger words can hinder entails not looking away, but
anxiety. Three to four feet is a
effective communication. Trigger maintaining silence with an eye-to-
comfortable distance to ensure
words set up negative expectations eye contact, is another key to
communication. A distance of four
and interfere with the ability to effective listening. Avoid
to eight feet is good for business-
listen. Common trigger words interrupting the speaker. Wait for
related meetings. Three feet or less
include “No,” “We can’t do that,” him to finish speaking and take
is appropriate for personal
“That’s not my job,” or “You’ve notes to remember crucial points.
called the wrong department.” It is also necessary to use
Eye contact: It is necessary to have
One way to improve your appropriate non-verbal techniques
an eye-to-eye contact with the
listening ability and come across as that show the speaker we are
speaker but a staring contest has
a great support person is to assist interested. These include:
to be avoided!
the speaker. There are four ways Leaning towards the speaker:
Be a mirror for the speaker: When
in which you can do that - one of This sends a message of
we rephrase the speaker’s words
them is using openers. Create an involvement. One suggestion
or the crux of his message, it will
opportunity for the speaker to would be to sit on your chair’s
help us verify the speaker’s intent
begin. Engage people in edge and lean slightly in the
and our perception of it.
conversation by asking questions. direction of the speaker.
Deal with distractions:
Use phrases such as “Could you Involved posture: Face the person
Distractions include sight, sound
tell me what you think of this?” squarely to indicate involvement.
or sensation. Sensations can
You can also be encouraging. You can also smile at appropriate
include fatigue, illness, light and
Phrases such as “That’s times.
interesting” or “I hadn’t thought of Space/territory: Long distances
that,” reveal your interest to the impede communication and
speaker and inspire him to extremely short ones increase
OMake a written commitment: share your listening goal: She can
This will affirm why you are coach you and give you feedback
doing this and the benefits of on how you’re doing.
improving listening skills people
OA reminder system: You listening: (do it discreetly
could use your door, refrigerator, though). How are they using
mirror or computer screen saver verbal and non-verbal
as an effective reinforcing system communication to listen?
OFind a support person and OPractice: Take time out to listen to
someone who is close to you.