Poor Listening Skills – A Major Barrier To Effective Communication

It is not possible to do the job or a routine work with out listening. Listening skills play an important role in overall communication process and are essentially important for sales personnel who directly communicate with customers. Not only the sales personnel but many people are poor listeners in their everyday life. Listening is often confused and interchangeably used with hearing. There is a major difference between listening and hearing.

Hearing is a physical act while listening is the act of hearing while also retaining and comprehending the information. Listening is active while hearing is passive. Though everyone knows the importance of listening skills when communicating to each other but very few pay attention to their listening skill and this often becomes a major barrier to effective communication. It is revealed by several studies that adults typically listen at only 25% efficiency level and experts agree that poor listening skills are the biggest contributors to poor communication. It is not just listening but skillful listening is what is needed in this competitive world. Skillful listening generally involves ability to evaluate ideas, recognize the difference between fact and opinion, use questioning and feedback to clarify communication, recognize loaded language, and recognize common listening barriers.

Listening may fall into any of the categories mentioned below:

Active listening: Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. You listen closely to content and intent. You try to block out barriers to listening. Most importantly, you are non-judgmental and empathetic.

Inactive listening: The definition of this is the old adage, “In one ear and out the other.” Inactive listening is simply being present when someone is speaking, but not absorbing what is being said. You hear the words, but your mind is wandering and no communication is taking place.

Selective listening: Selective listening is hearing what you want to hear or what you expect to hear instead of what is being said. You hear some of the message and immediately begin to formulate your reply or second guess the speaker without waiting for the speaker to finish.

Reflective Listening: This is one of the most complex types of listening. It involves actively listening, interpreting what is being said and observing how it is being said. You work to clarify what the speaker is saying and make sure there is mutual understanding.

When one is involved in the communication process he may be engaged with any of the above listening skills or may some times combination of all.

Poor listening usually occur due to lack of control over the speed at which speakers speak, not being able to get things repeated, the listener’s limited vocabulary, failure to recognize the “signals”, problems of interpretation, inability to concentrate, and even may be due to some established learning habits.

A 10 Step Formula which will help to listen better.

1) Face the speaker and keep an eye contact

2) Keep an open mind

3) Listen to ideas/concepts and not just words

4) Don’t interrupt the speaker

5) Wait for pause for questions

6) Ask questions

7) Be attentive

8) Feel speaker’s feelings (empathize with speaker)

9) Give feedback

10) Pay attention to what is not said.

Although it is tough to be a good listener consistently the 10 step formula would always help one to improve their listening skills.