Learning skills are much more than just skills today. It is a critical soft skill that one must master to sustain in this competitive world. When it comes to building relationships and indulging in better communication, speaking skills alone do not help.
Most people underestimate the importance of listening skills when it comes to communication. People are restless and always ready to come up with a response. In fact, it is one of the prime reasons why people today form less valuable relationships and bonds.
Not only interpersonal or personal relationships but your work relations are equally affected when you’re not a good listener. I remember I had an employee. He was a very smart and sharp young man. Being skilled at his work, he would sometimes act overconfident. He would hardly listen to his seniors or attend meetings.
One day we were having a meeting, and I noticed his inattentiveness. I did not say anything to him at the moment but observed his action. When he was asked something, he would immediately respond, but would not listen to other people’s pointers. At the end of the meeting, I asked my secretary to not write the pointers of today’s meeting. I immediately asked that employee to write a summary of today’s presentations and discussions. He was quick to respond with, “ It isn’t my job, is it?” I said it wasn’t his job but an assignment.
He was baffled and had no idea what all was discussed. However, being skilled and taking it as an assignment, he went to everyone to know the main points, re-watched the presentation, and worked very hard, and by the end of the day came up with the summary.
I smiled and asked him, “Will now you listen to what others say in the meetings?”
He understood my purpose in giving the assignment. From that day till now, he not just talks but also listens to everyone.
Why are Listening Skills Important?
Listening is a highly essential component of communication. It is not something that just happens, but it is an active process in which a conscious decision is made to listen and understand the speaker’s message.
Active listening is all about patience where you don’t interrupt the speaker with questions or comments. Once I went for a lecture and saw some mischievous students creating disturbances. Their teacher was about to scold them for talking when I said I’ll handle the situation.
I asked the group of four boys a simple question, “ If a black lady marries a white man, and they give birth to a black baby, what will be the color of the baby’s teeth?”
One of them stood and confidently said, “White.” Assuming there was no way a baby’s teeth could be of any other color, all the four boys agreed to white. I smiled and said, “Do babies have teeth?” They learned their lesson and apologized immediately. I asked them to always listen actively.
What are the different types of listening skills?
You must be wondering why it is important to embrace the different styles of listening. Well, understanding the different listening styles will help you learn how to use them and build better communication skills. You might think you are a good listener because you’re straightforward. However, many types of listening skills determine if you are a good communicator or not.
Generally, the different listening types are categorized as:
- Evaluative listening
- Reflective Listening
It is generally seen that people master one of these styles of listening. However, one must learn both the listening style profiles to suit different situations. It will not only make you a more effective communicator but will also prevent miscommunication.
7 Different Types of Listening Skills
- Discriminative Listening: Discriminative listening is the first form of listening that humans develop as babies. This type of listening is all about understanding the words of a speaker and judging the tone. The tone is used to understand the meaning and intention. In simple words, babies do not understand words. They only understand who is speaking and what mood they’re communicating. As adults, we do this type of listening when we are around people who speak different languages. When we do not understand a certain language, we rely on the tone of voice and inflection. Basically, we try to understand by relying on the mannerisms, body language, and facial expressions of the speaker to get their message.
- Comprehensive Listening: The second type of listening skill is a comprehensive listening skill. It is a critical listening skill that people develop in their early childhood. This type of listening skill requires basic language and vocabulary. One can understand simply what is being communicated through the speaker’s words. So, the everyday listening that we do is comprehensive listening where we simply listen and understand a person by their words. In day-to-day life, we use comprehensive listening along with verbal cues to understand the messages being communicated.
- Critical Listening: You must have heard people critically analyze a situation. It is the style of listening people use to analyze and judge some complex information. This type of listening is extremely important in the corporate sector. You cannot simply listen to what someone says. You need to analyze and simplify the complexity in their speech. For instance, if you’re solving a problem on the job or trying to decide if you agree with a proposal being floated by any of your coworkers. The word ‘critical’ here simply means evaluating information without passing a judgment.
- Informational Listening: As the name suggests, it is the informative type of listening, people use when they are trying to learn something. Now, you must be wondering how informational listening is any different from comprehensive listening. Well, it is different because this type of listening requires a high level of concentration. One everyday example is listening to lectures in school or colleges. When we do informative listening we engage to understand new concepts and technical jargon. When we try to learn something informative or value-adding, it is vital to pay attention and use informational listening skills. Most of the time, this type of listening does not require any emotional connection and is more about critical thinking.
- Sympathetic Listening: We can very much derive from the name what this type of listening is about. Empathetic listening is an emotionally-driven type of relationship listening. A listener processes the feelings and emotions of a speaker and tries to provide empathy, support, and understanding in return. Most people today lack the skill of sympathetic learning. People are so occupied in their own lives that they hardly dig out time to support their friends and family. It is also one of the reasons why mental health issues today are much more than what they were a few years back. This type of listening is very crucial and helps you form deeper connections with a person. It is always better to use this form of listening while helping a person who’s going through some adversity.
- Selective Listening: Selective listening is also known as biased listening. It is a type of listening behavior that is demonstrated when someone is just listening for information they want to hear. You must have seen this type of listening in toxic relationships. In such relationships, one person often wants to hear exactly what they want. No matter if it is the truth or fair thing to listen. Most of the time, the validity of the speaker’s opinion is not judged in this form of listening. Another example of selective listening is at workplaces. We often see that some managers or bosses manipulate people to speak and do the things they want. They’ll listen only to the part that suits their ego. In fact, many times people do not even realize that they’re using a biased listening process. It is the form of listening that can create misunderstandings and miscommunications.
- Therapeutic Listening: The last form of listening is therapy listening. It is empathic listening most counselors and coaches use. In this type of listening, a listener tries to understand the point of view of a speaker without judging them. Generally, the listener puts themselves into the shoes of the speaker to understand their situation. It helps them share the emotions of the speaker in a far more relatable manner. This type of listening is done for therapy for mental health problems.
By understanding the different types of listening skills, one gets the knowledge of where to apply what type of listening. As I said before, listening is not a straightforward skill. It depends on your awareness and attitude.
What are the benefits of active listening?
There are many benefits of active listening. As I said earlier, most people ignore the importance of listening when it comes to communication. However, active listening is as important as replying to someone in a conversation. Some benefits of active listening include:
- Builds Trust: One thing that I have noticed with experience is that the better listener you are, the more people would like to talk to you. The people who cultivate the habit of listening sincerely, invite more people to open up with them. It shows that you do not jump to conclusions or judgments without completely listening to the other person. When you listen attentively, the other person feels you truly care about them. We all know how hard it is to build trust in today’s time. Active listening can help you form lifelong friendships.
- Increases Your Patience: Listening to someone without interrupting is a task of patience. It takes a lot of time to become a good listener. Regular efforts over time help you form the habit of listening patiently. However, when you learn how to stay silent and listen to what the other person has to say, you form the quality of patience in yourself. Patience is a quality that benefits a person throughout his or her life. A patient person has stronger relationships and personality.
- Your Learning Perspective Broadens: Now, I have always been an active listener. One reason for it was my learning attitude. I always wanted to learn new things from new people. So, whenever people used to talk, I would listen to them. When you start listening to people, you realize how much you have so much to learn from everyone. You may understand a situation according to your beliefs, but when you listen to other people you broaden your perspective.
- You Become Approachable: How often do you think to yourself, “ Whenever you try to tell him your problem, he starts talking about his own problem” for some people? Very often, right. No one likes talking to a person who listens only to respond. We all want someone ready to listen to our adversities without stating their problems. So, when you’re a good listener, people approach you. They come to you because they love talking to you. People feel naturally more inclined to communicate with good listeners.
- Enhances Competence: Now, competency can be of great quality at the workplace. Any recruiter or manager would choose a capable employee over hundred other employees. If you’re a good listener, you’ll take instructions and decisions more quickly. Moreover, you’ll get more information out of the meetings and reports because you were listening actively. It will help you in completing your task efficiently and attentively. Good listening skills are highly beneficial for employees.
- Problem Solving Becomes Easy: The root cause of the problem can only be detected if you were listening critically with concentration. When you’re attentive to what people have to say, you’ll notice flaws and solutions more quickly than others. In fact, you’ll be able to solve problems and come up with suggestions for improvement. It can again help you at your workplace where you can help your employees work better.
- Saves Time: You must be wondering if listening to someone must be such a waste of time. But do you know active listening actually saves a lot of your time? It is because when you’re listening attentively, you understand concepts and problems. It reduces the risks of making mistakes or redoing things. It also saves time as any type of misunderstanding is also avoided.
Now that you know how important and beneficial it is to have good listening skills, we should learn how you can improve your listening skills.
How these listening skills exercises can help in effective communication?
Listening attentively is an art. It is as arduous as giving a presentation. Many people who work at higher levels have a habit of judging someone on their way of talking and listening. You might think your communication is only judged based on how you speak and how confidently you answer. It is not completely true.
While you are in a conversation, your listening style is equally important. Your body language and expressions say a lot about you and not just the words coming out of your mouth. If you are wondering how you can make a strong impression by using the right listening skills exercises, then here’s your guide to efficient listening mannerisms.
There are two main forms of listening exercises or active listening.
1. Non-verbal signs: The people who are listening should display any of these signs depending on the situation and environment.
- Smile: A smile is the simplest and most effective listening exercise to show the other person that you’re involved in the conversation. Small smiles at a time can be used to show that you’re paying attention to what is being said. Smiling is also a gesture that says you agree with the speaker or you’re happy with what is being said. You can combine smiling with little head nods to show affirmation of listening and understanding the words.
- Make Eye Contact: One thing that is very arousing and engaging is making eye contact with the speaker. However, many people lack the confidence to see someone in their eyes when they talk. It is very encouraging for the speaker. However, you need to gauge how much eye contact is appropriate. Well, you don’t want to scare the speaker with constant eye contact.
- Your posture matters: Being a life coach, I check a person’s posture. A person’s way of sitting or standing says a lot about their presence and involvement at the moment. Just like in school, how your teacher would easily recognize when the students used to get bored of the lecture. Your posture can tell a lot about the sender and receiver during interpersonal interactions. An attentive listener would lean forward or rest their head on hand. All these postures show that you’re interested in the conversation.
- Level of Distraction: Well, in today’s time, how attentively you are listening completely depends on how less you get distracted. If you’re talking to someone and every message that pops distracts you, the speaker might not want to continue talking. Some people start looking at the clock, or playing with hair or anything that’s nearby, or start using their phones. All such actions show how you are refraining from being a part of the conversation. You must not do such exercise, and it is a major turn-off
2. Verbal signs: As the name suggests, verbal signs show your attention and involvement through words and not just actions.
- Positive Affirmations: One of the simplest signs of attentiveness is positive reinforcement. You can use words like ‘indeed’ or ‘true’ or ‘I agree’ to indicate that you’re paying attention. However, too much use can be annoying for the speaker.
- Ask Questions: During school, your teacher would ask you questions in-between the lecture to check how many students were attentive listening. Only a few would answer the question, and the other students would remain mentally inactive during classes. In the same way, when you’re listening to someone who’s telling you something new, you should ask relevant questions or make statements to clarify doubts. It helps the listener reinforce that you have an interest in what the speaker is saying.
- Try To Remember: If you’re listening to someone with attention, you’ll remember what they say. You can use names or places mentioned in the conversations to prove to the speaker that you were listening to all this time. Remembering details encourages the speaker to continue.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of active listening in our day-to-day lives. From friendships, relations, bonds, and the workplace, everything revolves around how you communicate. So, next time do not just focus on speaking well, but also on listening actively.
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