Importance of Listening Skill in Personality Development
We hear many things every day – advice from grandparents or parents, complaints of children, lectures from teachers, chit-chat of friends, sermons of boss, and sometimes whispers of some secretive conversation we are not supposed to.
Can you recall which one did you really pay attention to? Which one was etched in your memory?
You will be amazed that most people will be easily able to recall what their friends said to them or what they overheard when they were passing by. But many people will find it difficult to remember what instructions their parents gave them or why was the boss so irritated and agitated.
This is because we are wired in a manner to process and store some kinds of conversations easily and for a long time, but our minds play tricks for other types of conversations.
Hearing a physical sense that nature has gifted us when a sound is produced within a specific frequency band. Hearing is not listening, that is why many times even when you are being told what to do by an authority what to do, you could not remember it for long and make mistakes.
Effective communication requires listening, not just hearing, that is to receive and interpret messages in the same form as they were intended to.
If you are not an effective listener, then you will be flustered with the conversation going on in the meeting, you will repeat what was said a little while ago, and you might repeat the same mistakes again.
If you do not listen carefully, you can easily misunderstand what you heard or forget it completely. It will cause the breaking down of communication and may affect your promotion, job, deal, and even relationships.
If you must master only one skill, it must be effective listening. That is how important it is.
Many highly placed corporate executives, government officers, and even entrepreneurs attend my seminars and workshops to master their listening skills. They also organize training in active listening skills for their subordinates through my special training programs.
Importance of Mastering Listening Skills
We need good listening skills in many fields, by everyone, and are a lifelong skill that you can practice anywhere and everywhere. With active and listening, you and your team can:
- Provide better customer satisfaction;
- Harness better team coordination and collaboration;
- Achieve greater productivity with fewer mistakes;
- Channelize your thoughts with more focus and knowledge;
- Clearly understand the meaning of the message and communication;
- Observe better the non-verbal signals of the speaker as body language;
- Encourage others to open up and share their secrets or personal feelings;
- Provide solutions to problems that would otherwise have remained hidden;
- Channelize your creative energies, innovative spirits, and analytical abilities; and
- Steer the conversation, dialogue, negotiation or debate in the direction you want.
As Ernest Hemingway has popularly said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen”. A successful leader in any field has a good ear and listens to everyone and everything carefully.
Many successful entrepreneurs, politicians, thought leaders, and teachers give credit for their success to their better-than-average listening skills that they gained in my sessions.
I have noticed, in my long experience of coaching and counselling, that when I listen to someone, I can instantly connect with my clients; I can inspire in them self-respect and respect for others; and make them open to any idea, even at a personal loss.
Like Bryant H. McGill said, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
Many times, we listen not to understand or for the sake of listening, but we have an urge to respond and reply. That is not listening at all!
Benefits of Effective Listening in Personal Lives
With good listening skills you can have many things to gain, avoid may missteps and overcome many challenges in your personal lives. Some of the most common benefits include:
- You will have more close friends than you had earlier.
- Your social network will be vast and more dependable.
- You will answer properly without hesitation, boosting your self-esteem and confidence.
- You will have less stress and worries improving your general well-being
- Your relationships with spouse, partner, children, parents, and co-workers will strengthen and deepen.
- Some scientific studies have also reported that attentive listening helps you manage your blood pressure.
Benefits of Active Listening in Professional Lives
Good listening skills also have benefits in your work and school lives, including:
- With attentive listening, you will not forget things easily, understand the guidelines faster and better. It will cause more positive appraisals and faster promotions for you.
- As you will understand, process, remember and recall faster, you will have better grades.
- In a client meeting, even an irate client will start calming down and may come around.
- Your clients will trust you more than your competitors and will continue to bring more business.
There can be many barriers in effective listening and with proper coaching and practice you can overcome them.
Some barriers like personal bias, lack of empathy, and judgemental attitudes, unattractiveness of the speaker, are psychological and can be managed with a few sessions with Life Coach Ritu Singal.
Some other barriers such as poor physical health, unclear voice or use of jargon can be managed with maintaining yourself in good shape, asking the speaker to repeat what was not clear, and by asking him to use relatable phrases and terms.
If the speaker knows you are attentive and listening to them, then just hearing their voice, they will automatically pay more attention towards you and give you respect.
How to Improve Your Listening Skills?
I have always practiced and recommended that, to improve your listening skills and win people over, you must practice “active listening.” With active listening, you will attempt to engage and commit yourself to the conversation.
As a part of my sessions and workshops, I often use active listening with my clients who come from all age groups and socio-economic backgrounds.
Active listening has helped my clients in personal relationships, board meetings, academic viva-voce & seminars, public speaking, debates, counseling, training, negotiations and conflict resolution.
As an exercise in being alert, I ask the participants to pay attention to when they subtly slip out of the conversation, and then consciously come back into it.
Some the clients have used physical cues, as per my suggestions, to help them convey that they are actively listening. These include nodding, giving a vocal response, and rephrasing the concept or idea.
Here are some very simple ways to improve your listening skills, influence people and win them over:
1. Pay attention
Always give your complete attention to the speaker. If your eyes are wandering everywhere, then the speaker also loses interest in talking to you. If there is only one speaker, then look at him directly. In case of a panel of speakers, give most of your attention to the speaker.
Put your phone and other distractions on silent or switched off mode. Do not start or indulge in side-conversation with people sitting next to you.
2. Show you are listening
You can, from time to time, acknowledge by nodding or giving some one-word replies like “yes”, “OK”, “hmm”, etc. An open, straight and welcoming posture encourages the speaker to start the conversation and continue talking.
Smiling at the speaker, laughing at their jokes, applauding are some non-verbal ways to show that you are present and open to conversation.
3. Give feedback and confirm
Many times, our experiences, biases and assumptions can cloud our understanding of what we hear.
An active listener will identify & note the points of difference where she may have a differing understanding and must ask a para-phrased question to confirm their intent. This is possible if you can reflect on what you heard.
But do not interrupt the flow to give your feedback or to clear your doubts. Always wait for the speaker to finish and invite questions. For better understanding, summarizing is a great tool.
4. Do not judge
If you are listening to pass judgement, to find faults, to ridicule or taunt, then you are not listening. When you listen, you hear the speaker’s version, and do not force your version or opinion on them.
Passing any judgement on their opinion, conduct or performance will make them defensive in your presence and make you less trustworthy.
5. Do not interrupt
By interrupting you not only waste the speaker’s time but also your time. If you want to ask something, then let them finish and then ask. If you will continue to interrupt, they may get frustrated or get angry at you.
Presenting counter arguments to interrupt and distract their attention may seem fun, but it is rude behaviour. It never leads to any constructive outcomes.
6. Respond appropriately with respect
With practice in active listening, you must learn how to respect the person talking to you. It does not matter what their social or economic standing is, respect is their right. If you do not respect people you talk with, you will soon have no one to talk with.
Responding to their questions, doubts, and statements with respect, understanding and empathy is very important to establish strong communication links.