Effective Listening Skills Term Paper

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Listening Skills.

Listening is the awareness of, the tendency to, the organization of, and the operationalization of data entering our nervous system via our hearing mechanism. Unlike hearing which is a physiological passive activity, listening is an active cognitive process" (Petrass 1999). We spend much of our time having to listen. Listening is critical in almost all activities of our lives- in attending meetings and conferences, lectures, in giving and receiving instructions, and helping staff and customers. Listening is hard work and takes energy and effort. Effective listening requires certain skills that must be practiced. One must be able to do nothing but listen with all his attention and concentration. Johnson (1996) says, "The contrast between hearing and really listening can be as different as night and day."

What makes a good listener? There are many important skills and practices involved in effective listening; most have to do with focusing attention, appropriate body language, accurate understanding and interpretation of the meaning of what the speaker is saying and responses. It is important to first clear one's mind of your own problems and concerns that could distract from listening effectively; this includes putting aside all prejudices and preconceived ideas about the topic or the talker. Johnson (1996) points out that if "you prejudge someone as incompetent or uninformed you won't pay much attention to what they are about to say." A fully relaxed and alert mind will be more conducive to effective listening.

Non-verbal cues are a central part of effective listening. Non-verbal cues should relay interest and concentration on the speaker. These cues include maintaining eye contact so that the speaker can always tell that the listener's attention is focused on him; an open and relaxed posture and nods or smiles or short phrases to let the person know that you are listening.
According to the Canadian Association of Student Activity Advisors (CASAA), "good listeners listen with their faces. You must act like a good listener. It is important to change our physical body language from that of a deflector to that of a receiver. Tilt your face towards the channel of information." Responding while listening also takes skill and practice. The role of the listener is to summarize or clarify what he hears. Summarizing what the speaker said helps the listener to be sure that he understood everything correctly and it lets the speaker know that he is truly being listened to. As Petress (1999) explains..."so not exaggerate, distort or repeat out of context or unfairly juxtapose what others have said."

Additional behaviors for effective listening include: staying calm rather than letting your own emotions get triggered by what the speaker is saying and reacting inappropriately to those emotions, avoiding distractions such as the phone ringing; if you cannot concentrate because you are tired or sleepy suggest another time for you to listen; let the person know at the beginning of the conversation if you only have limited time for listening and establish the goals of the conversation.

Petress (1999) summarizes it by saying that good listeners "pay close attention to individual inferences, facts and judgments and are able to later make useful and logical connections between what they have heard on multiple occasions." He goes on to say that they are also able to " determine a speaker's….....

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