Listening is an essential skill for maintaining communication between people. It is an active process that involves understanding spoken messages with close attention. A good listener considers the speaker’s verbal and nonverbal communication tools, thus requiring many skills and training compared to hearing. The sender’s and receiver’s purposes identify many different listening styles and types that affect interpersonal relationships. A person implements specific competence and strategy to enhance effective listening.
Listening and hearing are two distinct processes differing in effort and training. A person in a crowded room hears different sound waves, including voices or electrical humming. Therefore, he does not closely concentrate on them (Hamilton et al., 2019). Unlike hearing, which requires only a functioning eardrum, listening requires effort (Rao & Kameswari, 2020). A good listener distinguishes between these sound waves and interprets their verbal and nonverbal constituents. Just hearing deteriorates interpersonal relations since the listener can be accused of inattentiveness. Meanwhile, close listening improves communication and brings people together.
Stages of listening should be assisted by various strategies to enhance effective listening. Stages include attending, understanding, responding, and remembering (Hamilton et al., 2019). To listen productively, everyone should prepare by eliminating external problems from the mind (Rao & Kameswari, 2020). Initially, a listener concentrates on important stimuli from the available data in the environment (Hamilton et al., 2019). His age, gender, and culture impact the choice of stimuli. Second, a listener organizes the interest data into a more easy-to-remember form. At this stage, it is better to forget biases toward the speaker and concentrate only on his message (Rao & Kameswari, 2020). Sometimes information overload or fatigue can slow down the understanding stage.
In the next stage, a person makes predictions and interprets the stimuli meaningfully (Hamilton et al., 2019). During effective communication, a listener responds to the message, and the sender corrects the derived misconceptions. People use verbal and nonverbal clues to demonstrate their involvement at this stage. The nonverbal techniques include eye contact, head nods, a smile, and an open body posture. The verbal code uses utterances such as “mm-hmm,” asking questions, and paraphrasing. For instance, in formal circumstances, a person prefers nonverbal facial expressions such as frowning or vocal sounds such as groans and sighs to illustrate disagreement.
The final stage is remembering, which involves transferring information from the short-term to the long-term for a good listener. In contrast, a poor listener usually forgets information. To encourage remembering, a person should summarize the information by using notes, asking follow-up questions, and voicing supporting responses (Hamilton et al., 2019). Thus, people are always eager to listen to well-organized, delivered effectively, and with quality visual aids information.
Three types of listening differ in the sender’s and receiver’s purposes: informational, critical, and empathic. The sender’s goal in informational listening is to convey information, while the receiver’s goal is to comprehend the information (Hamilton et al., 2019). For example, a classroom or a medical consultation incorporates informational listening. During critical listening, the sender aims to persuade the receiver. The latter is required to evaluate and analyze the message (Rao & Kameswari, 2020). Empathic listening requires a sender to share a problem to solve it. A receiver listens with empathy and changes perspectives. The most informal listening facilitates closer relationships between two people (Rao & Kameswari, 2020). All these listening types impact interpersonal communication, forcing people to listen and comprehend simultaneously.
Every listener has barriers that complicate their listening effectiveness. One is noise because a person inadvertently shifts attention to the environment’s sounds that disrupt the hearing process. Semantic noise refers to the different understanding of concepts, while internal noise connects to a listener’s psychology (Hamilton et al., 2019). When the sender notices that the listener is focusing on other internal or external noises, he may be disappointed, negatively affecting their relationship (Rao & Kameswari, 2020). People should go to a quiet place to avoid interrupting noises.
Another barrier is gender, which draws a fine line between men’s poor decoding of nonverbal communication and women’s better understanding of emotions from the voice tone and decoding of nonverbal communication (Lin et al., 2021). The former has minimal responses because they listen for competitive purposes (Hamilton et al., 2019). The latter gives more personal examples because they listen for cooperative purposes. When women communicate, their interpersonal relations enhance due to gentle speaking and attentive listening. However, when two genders communicate, their different tendencies lead to confusion. They should know these differences and minimize gender barriers to have more effective listening.
People have various listening styles that affect their focus during the process. Hamilton et al. (2019) point out that people-oriented listeners focus on emotions and personal information. They build strong relationships with a sender by finding common ground. Action-oriented listening requires precise recommendations based on the information. Sometimes people listen only to facts and details as they are obsessed with accuracy in content-oriented listening. Time-oriented styling limits the time of a message and conveys only straight-to-the-point information. Thus, listening styles determine the things for a good listener’s focus. To increase listening competence, a person should reflect on his focus, get clarification, and maintain only one conversation at a time.
To conclude, listening is essential for establishing tight personal relationships between people. Depending on the listening purpose and type, there are different styles and strategies to improve effective listening. While listening, avoiding prejudgement and overcoming barriers such as noise and gender are better. A person uses verbal codes such as follow-up questions and nonverbal techniques like facial expressions and body posture to show active listening.
Lin, Y., Ding, H., &Zhang, Y. (2021). Gender differences in identifying facial, prosodic, and semantic emotions show category and channel-specific effects mediated by encoder’s gender.” Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research, 64 (8), 2941–55.
Hamilton, C., Creel, B., & Kroll, T. (2019). Communicating For Success, 2nd Edition. Web.
Rao, C. V., & Kameswari, K. (2020). Listening skills: Stages, types, barriers and tips to overcome the barriers. Mukt Shabd Journal, 9(4), 2347-3150. Web.