Listening is often misunderstood to be just “Hearing”. But in reality , there is a lot more to listening than just hearing. Hearing involves responding to a sound stimulus with your sense organ alone. Listening involves interpretation, understanding, inference, deduction and much more. One of the most essential skills in professions like teaching, medicine, law, public service etc. and in day to day lives for students of all streams, “Listening” is sadly the most underrated of the four language skills, the other three being reading, writing and speaking.
While we consciously work on learning and improving the other three language skills, we unconsciously take listening for granted presuming listening to be the same as instinctive hearing, which is actually not the case. Listening skills are equally important as speaking or reading and therefore deserve equal attention and effort towards improvement and complete efficacy.
LISTENING TO UNDERSTAND Vs LISTENING TO REPLY
Listening should involve absorption of information which requires meditation upon the subject being discussed. What happens in the present time, more often is that we simply process bits of information with the single purpose of replying or retorting to prove the superiority of our idea or argument and that results in incomplete understanding of facts or improper execution of instructions.
The purpose of listening to something, therefore determines the efficacy of this skill and the meaning of the message conveyed, to a large extent.
So, it is important to channelize our listening towards a purpose that helps to develop this skill.
LISTENING INVOLVES THE WHOLE BODY ….. NOT JUST THE EARS
….we often close our eyes to enjoy soulful music because here our purpose is to sink into the melody and let the music transport us into a different world.
But listening to a client, a teacher, a patient, a student, a parent etc. involves not just understanding but also CONVEYING THE ASSURANCE that you are listening and you will act. Here listening is not just a means to an end but needs to convey the impression of being an END IN ITSELF. Therefore, in these cases, you need to listen using not only your ears and brain, but your eyes, hands, frowns, lean-ins, smile, nod etc. : in other words, your entire body, because the body language when you listen to somebody displays your level of interest, involvement and intention towards the issue being discussed by your client or stake holder or employee and so on. It may sound revolting when I coin this description , but in many ways Listening is a PERFORMING ART.
Some STRATEGIES that can help in developing this ART OF LISTENING are as follows:
LAMP POST: listening superficially without delving into depth , to form an overview of the message/ speech. Here physical presence of the listener is more important than internal analysis. The speaker needs to know that you are physically with him – through your facial expressions, eye movements, leaning in your upper body to express interest, occasional nods of your head etc. Its like being there throughout like a lamp post being talked to, which doesn’t interrupt or reply but silently remains there physically, though in your mind you may be thinking of something more important to you. Here your speaker is not necessarily looking for a solution but just for your time and attention to hear him or her out. So just give that to him/her.
SCANNING: listening for seminal words, phrases, concepts or cues primarily to frame a response or reply relating to those concepts, words, issues etc. Scanning is applied in argumentative discussions, debates, repartee, comprehensive questions and understanding etc.
SINK SHIP: this involves listening with the ears, mind as well as the body. This refers to INTENSIVE LISTENING where you listen to absorb and then understand and if necessary ask or answer questions pertaining to the message delivered. Here the body spontaneously responds with nods, smiles, eye and facial expressions, hand movements etc. because you are completely dissolved in the speaker’s message/ speech.
LINKING: this type of listening involves deduction, inference and opinion. Sometimes, here you need to listen to what is LEFT UNSAID rather than what is apparently mentioned. Solving a mystery, making a judgement etc. on the basis of verbal description involves Linking or Link-Listening.
It depends on you and your ambience and audience as to WHICH STRATEGY OF LISTENING you need to apply in accordance to the situation you are in.
Remember like any other skill or performing art, Listening improves with practice and effort.
Believe it or not, being a good listener can make you a BETTER LEADER, BETTER PARTNER, BETTER PARENT and a more LOVED or SOUGHT-AFTER PERSON…..
So….? …..Are you listening???