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Strategies for Effective Listening from MB0023 of SMU MBA

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Although the reasons for breakdowns in listening are numerous, there are many ways to improve listening skills. You can improve your listening skills by following some of the strategies mentioned below:

Maintain eye contact with the speaker: Eye contact keeps you focused on the job at hand and keeps you involved in the lecture/speech.

Provide clues that you are actively involved in listening: Clues that you are actively listening can go a long way. It is important to make the speaker feel that you care about what he/she is saying.

Focus on content, not delivery: Have you ever counted the number of times a teacher clears his/her throat in a fifteen minutes period? If so, you weren’t focusing on content.

Avoid emotional involvement: When you are too emotionally involved in listening, you tend to hear what you want to hear-not what is actually being said.

Avoid distractions: Don’t let your mind wander or be distracted by anything. It is necessary that you must concentrate. Concentration requires willingness and practice. Practicing active listening helps to develop concentration but there are other elements that contribute to your ability to concentrate on what someone is saying.

Refrain from formulating an immediate response: It is important to refrain from formulating an immediate response. Let yourself finish listening before you begin to speak.

Ask questions: If you are not sure you understand what the speaker has said, just ask. It is a good idea to repeat in your own words what the speaker said, so that you can be sure your understanding is correct.

Use the gap between the rate of speech and your rate of thought: You can think faster than the speaker can talk. That’s one reason why your mind may tend to wander. All the above suggestions will help you keep your mind occupied and focused on what is being said.

Be willing to accept revisions: It will keep the communication process running smoothly. Often people are so busy trying to defend their positions that they fail to really stop and think whether they could be improved upon or viewed in a different way.

Choose the right environment: It is important because it will help the listener focus on what he is listening and avoid distractions. Although you cannot always create or call an environment ‘perfect’ for all types of communication, in general, it is best to avoid areas where there are high levels of activity, loud noises, an uncomfortable temperature, poor air flow, etc.

Stay active by asking questions for yourself: Active listening keeps you on your toes. Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you listen: What key point is the speaker making? How does this fit with what I already know? How is this lecture/speech organized?

Treat listening as a challenging mental task: Listening to an academic lecture is not a passive act at least it shouldn’t be. You need to concentrate on what is said so that you can process the information thoroughly.

Barriers to Effective Listening from SMU MBA MB0023 of Business Communication

Monday, June 7, 2010

Listening is the most important part of the communication process. However, listening skills do not come naturally to most people; these require willingness, practice and patience to develop on the part of the person, who wishes to acquire these skills.

There are many reasons as to why individuals fail to listen successfully. These include:

Interrupting is a problem for many reasons. First, it is an aggressive behavior and will most likely bring a negative response from the speaker being interrupted.

Faking attention and tuning out can be offensive and is usually hard to hide. This hurts the speaker as it sends him the message that the listener doesn’t really care about what the speaker is saying.

Becoming emotional can hinder one’s ability to listen. It is important that the receiver be aware of his or her emotions.

Jumping to conclusions is often considered as the most common barrier to listening. The listening, to be effective, should be done with full attention to whatever the speaker has to say.

Getting distracted is common while trying to communicate. Often, one has many tasks to do or there is a lot of other activity taking place while someone is trying to communicate.

Pre-judging the subject: Often, instead of listening to the speaker, many people tend to assume that the subject is boring or dull. During any conversation, presentation or speech, they turn their attention to other things or simply day-dream.

Wrong focus: Another barrier of listening is the focus of the listener on appearance and delivery of the speaker. The listeners observe the appearance and the delivery style of speaker instead of listening to what is being said.

Gathering only facts: Many people listen to gather facts instead or trying to understand the underlying idea and integrated it with non-verbal communication.

Inflexibility while listening: Many formal speeches are not carefully outlined and organized.

Avoiding complicated subjects: When the subject is technical or complicated, many people stop listening altogether.

The strategies that one has to develop in order to be a good listener are: Providing clues that one is actively involved, concentrating while someone is talking, refraining from formulating an immediate response, trying to prepare beforehand, being prepared to accept revisions and being sure that the environment is conducive to listening.

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