Are You Listening?
Can you hear me now?
Some people just need an audience of one to begin speaking. These individuals don't bother to read non-verbal communication cues, facial expressions, body language, and eye contact. They will accept the obligatory nod and smile as acknowledgment without recognizing the listener is uninterested in the conversation.
Do you believe yourself to be a good listener?
Are you an active listener?
Listening is crucial to effective communication. The message has to be clear and concise for the listener to engage. The communication must not lead to resistance in the receiver of the message. Therefore, the sender must be mindful of the communication to include the words, the sequence, and the pacing before it reaches the recipient. This way, the sender of the message has the recipient's attention.
Let us be frank, sometimes, it is just plain challenging to listen to some people speak, especially in situations where you believe the speaker to be monotone and lack enthusiasm for their own topic. You attempt to listen to the speaker actively, but your eyes are open, and your brain is sleeping. You just don't have the patience to attend to the speaker, so you try to find an escape route. Still, sometimes this is difficult to do when your path is blocked because the conversation is one-on-one, you are in a meeting, and the extended restroom break would be noticeable and just not possible.
It worsens if you consider the person whining or repeatedly telling the same story because they haven't found closure. Even more annoying is the person that speaks over you or monopolizes the conversation. You share an experience, and they have a similar experience or know someone who struggled with the same issue.
The above narrative may seem extreme. You may very well find yourself in some of the situations described above. Still, it is essential to listen to the language of the communicator to uncover the story being told. There are some strategies to help you engage in communication that assist you with fleshing out the details of the message. Active listening is an interactive process to facilitate comprehension and collaboration.
Listen to the speaker without premature judgment.
Listen to understand the speaker's intent.
Be present and alert to the messenger.
Pay attention to the details.
Listen without interrupting the speaker.
Put away items that may disrupt you from giving the speaker your undivided attention.
When you respond to the speaker, you asked open-ended questions.
Use reflections to summarize the speaker's points of emphasis.
Listen with an open mind.
Avoid interrupting the speaker because you have a burning question.
Paraphrase the speaker's words to demonstrate understanding without parroting the speaker.
Sometimes, it doesn't take long for us to lose interest in a presentation, which is understandable. However, the presenter may have an excellent command of the topic but is experiencing performance anxiety at the moment. The pressure from taking center stage and being the focus of attention can be overwhelming.
Hence, the need to listen with an open mind and, where possible, ask for clarification about what was said. This may provide the speaker the opportunity to clear up any ambiguous statements. The fact that someone from the audience engages may be enough to calm the speaker.
Stay Naturally Curious
Likaj, M. (2015). Teaching listening as a communicative skill in military English. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(24), 64-70.
Topornycky, J. & Golparian, S. (2016). Balancing openness and interpretation in active listening. Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching, 9, 175-184.