Listening in communication, as the majority know it, seems to be the casual (person A talking to person B) with divided attention, for the mere purpose of exchanging words rather than a deeper sense of word transmission through every cell and organ in the body.
Maybe I am exaggerating, but you get the point. Communication, by my definition, is passing information in a way that resonates with those involved, and it doesn’t end at using a language that the parties understand.
It continues to also understanding body languages, body expressions, and so on. This understanding of communication makes “listening” a critical part of effective communication.
Take, for instance, Janet needs to share a concern with her best friend, Hannah. They decided to initiate a video call due to the distance barrier. Janet went on about this troubling matter, but Hannah was glued to her iPad and claimed to be listening. I’ll put a pause on this story for now.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defined communication as “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.”
While Thought Co, defined listening to be “the active process of receiving and responding to spoken (and sometimes unspoken) messages.”
The definition of communication gives an insight into the need to incorporate a language as we know it, body language, and other behaviors into our daily conversations to make it effective.
Going back to the central focus, listening, active listening in communication requires our five senses to be alert. It requires paying close attention to the other party’s facial expressions, and the tiniest detail to get the most out of what he/she is passing across.
When active listening is used in our day-to-day activities, we will begin to see results at work, in our relationships, businesses, and so on.
There is a need to clarify the distinction between hearing and listening because they aren’t the same.
The distinction between hearing and listening
Conceptually, hearing seems like a passive action while listening is more on the active spectrum. There is the possibility to hear what someone is saying without engaging the five senses, and that’s where the distinction comes in place.
And by definition, hearing is simply the ability to perceive sounds. You can begin to see why communication is way beyond perceiving sounds, and not about “I can hear you, it doesn’t matter that I’m playing video games,” but more about “I have dropped every other thing, talk to me.”
Listening as an essential part of effective communication.
There are so many reasons why listening is an integral part of effective communication. Before I continue with that thought, read the end of the story I started in paragraph 2.
Janet got uncomfortable after many attempts to get Hannah off her phone and spoke up about ending the call. Hannah dropped her iPad furiously and began talking about how she heard everything Janet said and that her iPad didn’t stop her from listening.
Janet, not wanting to add more to what was troubling her finished what she had to say, heard Hannah’s not-well-thought-out input on the matter, and dropped the call with the same lingering feeling.
Now let’s break this scenario down further by bringing out the key points;
. Hannah thought she was listening, but we now know she was merely perceiving sounds
. Hannah was distracted by her iPad hence a divided attention
. Juliet’s problem either remained unsolved or got worse
. Hannah is impatient
We know that active listening requires a high level of engagement in the conversation, a soothing patience level, and avoidance of distraction. And putting all these in place makes communication effective for both the listener and the speaker.
Here are some of the reasons why listening in communication results in increased productivity and effectiveness.
- Listening brings about solution/results
- Listening makes the speaker feel comfortable and heard
- Listening helps to Build better connection
- Listening can help to avoid major loses
- Listening can build a business’s capacity
- Listening can unite families
- Listening creates an atmosphere of freedom
- Listening can reduce the speaker’s anxiety and worries
- Listening takes away hasty generalizations, assumptions, and conclusion-reaching
- Listening brings about a peaceful and safe environment
Going back to my story, Hannah failed to engage in the conversation, neither was she patient nor focused. And all these are key elements of listening required at every level of communication. Moving forward, Janet will be reluctant to call Hannah when next she feels the need to share a concern because Hannah has created a hostile and unwelcoming atmosphere that is toxic for Janet or anyone who needs to feel heard.
I’m not concluding yet…
What “not listening” can cause
We have gotten used to turning on several switches in our minds when all we need is one switch; even speakers have gotten comfortable with the idea of divided attention by the so-called listeners.
You’ve seen people play with their phones at TED talks, in classrooms, in business meetings causing many to lose huge contracts, governments not listening to the needs of its people, and so on.
How about being quick to take pictures and videos with celebrities without listening to spoken and unspoken messages. For this reason and many more, we now have high suicidal rates because the majority of our current population feel so unsafe and unheard.
Negative effects of not actively listening in communication
- A non-empathetic society
- Increased anxiety for speaker
- Emotional damage
- Chest pain
- A decline in business growth
- Inability to trust anyone
- Loss of love and relationship
- A less-knowledgeable society
- Less regard for relationship building
I can go on and on about the negative and positive effects of actively listening in communication, but I think you get it now. Should you forget, a relationship in whatever shape or form is one of the building blocks of a flourishing society.
When the government listens to its people’s needs, parents listen to their children’s not-so-funny stories, sisters listen to each other’s heart cries, and lovers to every unspoken word, then can a society filled with safety, love, and progress emerge.
Don’t be the phone presser in the classroom, and don’t be Hannah either, but be a decent human being with love for the growth of others and the desire to see your loved ones happy.
I love to share from my wealth of knowledge as much as I can hence the desire for blogging. As a healthy living lifestyle blogger who is constantly evolving, I have had the privilege to work with bloggers from different countries, taken on a few projects, and currently, teach and assist prospective and current bloggers who are unsure on how to crush their blogging goals.
I am a biochemist and an incoming PHARM. D student, my desire for drug discovery keeps me going professionally.
I love good food, by the way, and my favorite quote is one by Victor Hugo “Perseverance, the secret of all triumphs.” I hope you also will learn to persevere when the going gets tough.
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