Hearing well is as powerful a means associated with communication and influence as to speak well. -John Marshall.
Listening is definitely an indicator of openness of brain. It prepares the ground for understanding and solving of issues. Listening helps one gather and drink, slurp a wide array of information. A careful audience has the influence to enlist cooperation of the all those who are part of the problem. No knowledge is added when one talks but listening adds new knowledge. Listening touches minds. A listener is a part of solution, and never a part of problem. Words have no meaning but people have, which can be understood only when one listens. A amusing maxim “A wise man listening to a fool will learn more than a mislead listening to a wise man” points out clearly the importance of listening. Provision associated with two ears and one mouth to some human being symbolically explains the importance of hearing as double that of speaking.
The standard time spent on listening is 53% while that spent on writing, talking and reading together 47%. Ironically, all the training programs are usually focused on the latter and almost little on the previous though it is critical and occupies a major chunk of communication.
The Importance of Listening in Organizational Communication
While listening is very important for inter personal interactions or social life, it is more important for all those running the organization while seeking its goals. Organizations run not just on the rails of information with all diverse dimensions, but also on the emotions and non-rational human angles. Grasp associated with full range of information and proper treatment associated with human expectations are possible along with best listening only. One would set out on learning best listening abilities only when he is convinced about the importance of listening. Now a discussion is tried on the importance of listening.
Meenakshi Raman and Prakash Singh (2006, pp. 90-91) have enumerated the benefits of hearing for the leaders and teams.
a) Listening helps know the organization.
b) Listening helps in making better procedures.
c) Listening mollifies complaining workers.
d) Listening is important of the achievement of the open-door policy.
e) Hearing helps to spot sensitive areas prior to they become explosive.
f) Hearing forms a bond of respect.
g) It increases accuracy, self-confidence and productivity.
h) Innovative options evolve through listening.
Listening helps one get fairly complete details, which is not the case with poor hearing. Poor listening acts like bit of cloth with many holes in it. An issue with more than one dimension can be categorized out only when the information about all the dimensions of the problem is taken. Complete understanding of a problem is just one phase from solving it. Listening is a tool for understanding. and determines the missing links of the issue. A solution based on half information might either fail to work or may not last longer.
Listening helps planning for long term and formulating better policies. Hearing gives clarity and accuracy concerning the problem and also gives confidence to the people involved. Try this technique of attentive listening on all unresolved issues and see the difference. Listen to all points and everything parties to the problem and you would certainly see the solution instantly.
The listener can gather cues about long term problems from the way the presenters gesticulate or speak out their own minds. A discerning listener not only gets full information about the current problem but also enough signals about the upcoming problems. Due to full grasp associated with issues, efforts to solve problems can be launched much before the problem gets too unwieldy if one listens properly.
Listening gives non-verbal tips about the speaker’s original intention of the message. An attentive listener can make out the real and complete meaning of what the speaker is communicating. The speaker’s tone, facial expressions, gesticulations etc, which the listener can read very easily, would either confirm fully or even contradict what the former says by mouth. This is why people would travel thousands of miles to communicate in face-to-face situation, though the same can be done upon phone or fax or videoconference. In the face-to-face communication where full attentive listening is possible, not only the entire grasp of the problem is had however the attitude of the parties about the issue is also known to each other.
Listening establishes bonds of trust and regard. Problems and their solutions depend very much not only facts on 100 % pure facts but also non-factual dimensions like emotions, respect, affection etc . Hearing dissolves the defensive attitude of some other party. Active listening spawns regard in the other party and may relent in doubting. Listening makes worrying employees retrospect and soft to the issue and listener. Listening, in a way, reduces tensions. Even when no solution is found, the listeners are empathized with, since they perceive that almost everything what should be done was done. Apart from this, listening motivates the loudspeakers to say goods things and get immediate actions on what the audience suggested.
Causes of Poor Listening
There are several and varied reasons for poor hearing besides lack of awareness that listening is essential.
Filtering, second-guessing, discounting, relating, rehearsing, forecasting, and placating contribute to poor listening. Filtering refers to listener’s acceptance associated with what is palatable and rejection of what does not suit him. Second-guessing is looking out for hidden motives. Discounting is born of disrespect for the loudspeaker and derides at the content. Relevant is imbibing which has references to the listener’s experience or background plus missing out the rest as useless.
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Rehearsing is being busy with thinking about what to say when the speaker finishes their point. Forecasting is thinking quite definitely ahead about an idea given by the particular speaker. Placating is agreeing using what everyone else says in order to avoid conflict, the effect of which is missing out understanding.
Similarly, Prof. Mathukutty ( 2001, pp. 68-72) has identified nine contributors in order to poor listening. They are
1) insufficient language
2) difficult physical problems like external disturbances
3) non-serious listening
4) lack of interest
5) antipathy towards speaker
6) over-enthusiasm for speaker
7) lack of confidence
9) strong convictions about the topic
Prof. Asha Kaul has mentioned eight deterrents to listening process. Lack of interest, self confidence, preoccupation with self, shuttling among past and present, fear, preconceived notions, feeling that he already knows (familiarity trap), and stress.
We will discuss the most prominent reasons for bad listening in the following paragraphs.
Mismatch between believed speed and speaking speed: The mind (of any human being while he is listening) can process four hundred words per minute whereas a human being may speak only about 125 words only. During this free time gap available to the listener’s mind, it wanders aside into other topics since it provides idle capacity and get distracted from the speaker’s topic. This is one of the reasons why the mind wanders fast from one susceptible to the other.
Lack of awareness: While there are various and lots of training programs conducted for reading through, writing and speaking, no training program is ever conducted for hearing, which on an average constitutes a lot more than reading writing and speaking merged in total communication time.
Mistaken belief that others would expect you to solve their problems: It is a good erroneous belief that others would speak to us only in requirement of some contribution and would solicit us to solve their problem. But a few may solicit a few help but majority want to share their feelings, achievement, grief, details etc . It is better to listen with an open up mind than turn a hard of hearing ear.
Installation of filters: Communications originate from different angles with different kinds of advices. An individual neither has the capacity to absorb all nor is it useful to take everything that comes. Hence, an individual innately sets up filters in his mind to attend to several and disregard some by sifting through the information that comes. Along the way of disregarding the presumably worthless matter, he may turn ear to some useful information also.
Secondly, the particular filter has another form when the listener thinks that he knows the subject and nothing much is still left to learn from the speaker. This condition is recognized as closed- mindedness. In this condition also, the listener fails to get what exactly is communicated. In such situation, he would only engage his mind in forming criticism or to deny the speaker’s opinions or framing his debate as opposed to that of the speaker. It is how he misses the point.
Thirdly, the speaker may already have a viewpoint about the speaker. This condition is known as premature evaluation. If it is a negative opinion, he’d close his mind and miss the point. If he has a highly optimistic opinion, he may show over-enthusiasm to confirm his impression and thus may miss the point.
Fourthly, some individuals have a reduced opinion about them and take any input as an attack on their weak points. They would not allow the information to come and remain busy in defending themselves.