Listening is a communication skill that allows people to understand the messages that others convey to them in spoken language. It is given first in chronological order of the communication skills which are the following: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
Listening goes beyond the simple ability to perceive sounds, known as hearing. Even though you don’t have control over what you hear, you can control what you listen to. Indeed, listening requires a cognitive effort to process sounds for their meanings and other purposes such as their inherent connotations, positions and ideologies. Listening is an often trivialized but very important skill. Indeed, the quality and depth of a person’s speech are strongly linked to their degree of attentive listening. Basically, this treatise will discuss listening techniques, types of listening, and barriers to listening.
There are techniques that make listening easier or easier. The first of these is attentive listening. Anyone hoping to understand the gist of a conversation should pay close attention to it. Distractions should be avoided if details of a spoken language are to be obtained. Again, successful listening requires exercising judgment. It is difficult to grasp the essence of oral communication if one starts from preconceived ideas about the speaker’s message.
Therefore, it is important to give speakers the benefit of the doubt; don’t get to the end of their talks in front of them. The message is clearer when we are non-judgmental, and it is even easier to tell when the speaker is biased. Another technique that makes listening effective is reflection. To reflect is to think deeply and carefully about something. Reflecting on a person’s speech helps to make a logical deduction from their speech. Another effective listening technique is clarification.
A listener should feel comfortable asking a speaker for clarification, but it should not come off as an interruption. It is advisable to write down anything confusing or ambiguous and ask for clarification after the speaker’s speech.
Summarizing a presentation is another effective listening technique. When we try to restate the main aspects or points of attention of a speech, it serves to determine our level of understanding. The final listening technique is sharing. We validate our listening skills by sharing with the speaker our understanding of their speech, or by relaying this information or applying it depending on the situation.
Moving on to types of listening, the first type is informational listening. This type of listening is adopted to obtain the details of a speech. It requires great attention and concentration. Such listening involves critical thinking and the ability to deduce.
The second type of listening is discriminative listening. This is the type that is aided by paralinguistic cues such as tone and pitch. It is the type of listening that helps us distinguish between speech acts such as shouting, threatening and many others. It is what makes a child cry or laugh even when he is not using any language. Biased listening is the third type, and it is also called selective reasoning.
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This type of listening consists of paying attention to information that interests the listeners. This may be the type of eavesdropping practiced by party loyalists who listen to an opposition party member speak or a subordinate who only wants to get the details of a mission from a superior’s speech. Sympathetic listening is another type of listening, and it involves feeling pity towards the speaker. In this type of listening, the listener is guided by emotion rather than by the logic of a speech.
The final type of listening I will discuss in this article is critical listening. In this type of listening, the listener must infer, process and evaluate speech, not only on the surface value of sentences, but also for the inherent implications these expressions carry.
The rest of this article will discuss barriers to effective listening. The first barrier is the desire to impose our thoughts on what we listen to. The first task of a listener is to carefully process a speech and appreciate it from the speaker’s point of view. This makes our reaction much more constructive criticism than condemnation. The second obstacle to effective listening is integrating our evaluations of a speaker into our processing of their speech.
Whatever perception a listener has of a speaker, it must be separated when processing the speaker’s speech to avoid bias. Another challenge for effective listening is to be smarter than the speaker. This makes the listener think faster than the speaker, and it can influence the listener’s evaluation of the speaker.
As listeners, we need to understand that the speaker controls the speech and it is best to move at their own pace to capture the gist of their speech.
Finally, an emotional state can be an obstacle to effective listening. It is important to set aside any emotional situation one is in, if the gist of a speech is to be obtained.
This treatise discussed listening as an important communicative skill. Emphasis has been placed on its techniques, types and barriers. As such, it is hoped that the readership will be better listeners after a good digestion of this piece.