This unit talks about the techniques of becoming a better listener

The Stages of Listening

Effective listening involves knowing the difference between what is said, what you hear, and what is meant. Indeed, effective listening involves these four stages which you should acquaint yourself with.

The Four Stages of Listening

a.Sensing: The sense of hearing being employed to take in the Our minds have the ability to listen four times faster than a person can talk. One challenge to effective listening would be focusing our minds on hearing what is said rather than the several other things going on in our lives at any given moment.

To improve the skill, look directly at the person talking. As you hear the words said, also start reading the body language. Listen for tone and intonation. With advancement in the art, you will be able to notice even more subtle body language such as pupil movement.

On the flip side, if you are taking part in public speaking, your audience will face the same challenge you do with the art of listening. Understanding this will be an aid to developing and improving your public speaking skills.

b.Understanding: The processing and interpreting of the message. Rather than thinking about what you are going to say next, try to think of what is being said from the standpoint of the communicator. Think of yourself as their advocate and your purpose is to help everyone understand what the speaker is trying to communicate.

c.Evaluating: Appraising the message. Tap into the filing cabinet of your little gray box on conveniently mounted on the top of your body. First sort and classify what you are hearing. What are the implications, the applications, benefit or damage of the information? You will have plenty of time to draw a conclusion. You will only have a few seconds to quickly make a fool of yourself however. So put prejudices aside. Stifle any desire to respond emotionally. For future public speaking jobs, it is vital you not only learn about your audience, you need to practise the art of listening on them. Find out what floats their boats. Find out how best to reach them.

d.Responding: Acting on the message. You will benefit little if you do not act on the direction or advice. A simple credo in this regard, there are three things a true professional does not do when being given counsel or advice. Justify, minimize or shift the blame.

Reasonableness in the art of listening dictates that there is always more to learn on a subject. If your public speaking is reasonable, it will be easy for the audience to be reasonable in listening to you.

Becoming a Better Listener

Listening to people is a fine art that needs to be practised. If you are like most people, then chances are you often interrupt others while they are still talking. In your defence, you could say that a long-winded, one-sided conversation is the quickest turn off ever, and while this might be true, it just shows basic respect for the other person when we are prepared to listen to them without consistently interrupting their speech. As it stands though, none of us ever likes to be interrupted anyway. If it does happen, we tend to feel ignored, overlooked and unappreciated. So how can we still get our message across while becoming a better listener in the process?

a.Stop talking: Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes so you get a deeper understanding of where he or she is coming from and what is driving him or her to say what he or she is saying. Sometimes, saying nothing says so much more. The messages you tell when you are silent can be read in your body language. By being silent and observing what the other person has to say, we learn to pick up on their energies and the messages they DO NOT speak. This is a great tool if you work with people, because you can gain a deeper insight into their personalities by being a better observer.

b.Focus on using inviting body language, such as making eye contact, uncrossing your arms, and turning your shoulders so you are facing the person speaking. Avoid thinking about what you are going to say next. Instead, create memory triggers to assist your recall.

c.Be open- minded and avoid passing judgment on the speaker. How often do we shut off to another person’s message just because we do not agree with them? We do it all the time. Since we are human, we all have our own opinion on things. That is perfectly fine. But you know as well as I do that everything has two sides.

d.Remove your prejudice. By removing our prejudice to actually listen to what the other person has to say we remove self-imposed brain blockages and open ourselves up for proper communication with the other party. You should try it, because you might be surprised at what you learn during the process.

e.Stop doing other things — all other things — while someone is speaking to you. A discussion without eye contact is like a body without a soul. Something lacks – a personal touch. If you are guilty of shutting off to other people’s talk, could it be because you don’t make eye contact with them while talking to one another?

Granted, this is hard to do when speaking on the phone, but the next tip might help you in those situations. Practice eye contact when you speak with someone the next time. Initially, it might be hard because many people are actually uncomfortable looking into each other’s eyes. However, it will be worth your while because in doing so you establish a new intimacy between the people involved and I’m almost willing to guarantee that this will help to form a better bond between you.

Participate in active listening by encouraging the speaker with nods and affirmative words. Take what is being said at face value and avoid focusing on the “hidden” meaning. Ask for clarification to get a better understanding of what was said.

Do not interrupt. When it is time to ask your questions, summarize and repeat what you heard before asking the question.

When it gets down to it, and when you take the busy nature of life into consideration, listening is hard. But we all have the same struggles and the same opportunity for improvement.

Source:National Open University of Nigeria.

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