Active listening skills are an important component of effective communication. Information sharing forms part of everyday life and is important for conveying messages. Interpersonal communication skills like active listening are crucial components of effective information sharing.
Active listening enhances interpersonal communication as it influences the decisions of the listener as understood from the message of the speaker. Additionally, it defines the measure of the listeners ability to make meaning from a message, commensurate to the original intentions of the speaker (Team, 2013).
Characteristics of Good Listening Skills
Good listeners exhibit several characteristics of active listening. The first characteristic of good listeners is patience, as people need to first explore their thought and the associated feeling that the words they intend to use may create. Silent periods are also a common feature of good active communication since the people involved have to evaluate the appropriateness of their responses throughout the conversation.
Effective communication can be evaluated using measures of degrees of:
The degree of these measures is used to indicate the quality of communication. The elements of each degree result for a given communication brings out a variety of concerns, attitudes and ideas to the listener.
The elements of good communication skills include;
- Paying attention
These communication skills influence the listener’s ability to remember the exact words of the speaker and restructure them differently without changing their true meaning. These elements influence how the listener understands the message in a communication.
They are also useful in improving communication by helping the listener to focus on the meaning of the speaker’s words. In addition, they engage the mind and thoughts of the listener throughout the conversation in a neutral and non-judgmental way. Finally, they improve the listener’s ability to pay attention to the effective understanding of concepts (Team, 2003).
The Role of an Active Listener in a Conversation
An active listener is required to demonstrate undivided attention. He/she should follow the conversation keenly while reassuring the speaker of self-disclosure. To build a better rapport with the speaker, an active listener should also fill the gaps in a conversation as and improve the insight of the speaker on issues related to the narrative.
Key Components of Good, Active Listening
Understanding the art of active listening skills requires one to master its three important components.
The orientation of the listener is one of the components of active listening skills. It defines the attitude of both parties in the conversation.
A positive attitude determines the successes of the conversation and therefore the listener must make a conscious effort.
Giving undivided attention is the other component of good listening skills. The listener should always ensure that his /her total attention is focused on the speaker. This component is also enhanced by holding the conversation in an environment that is free from any distractions.
Other orientation factors to consider for good active listening include empathy, respect and acceptance among others.
The second component involves reflecting on the actual meaning of the spoken worlds through clarification where the meaning is not clear. The reflective listening technique is important in improving understanding, thought clarification and assurance during conversations.
The last component that is important in perfecting active listening is questioning skills. This entails the ability of the listener to enquire on information that is not clearly understood.
Questioning skills are important in keeping the conversation engaging. Using various questions type, the listener demonstrates a clear understanding of the information in the speakers’ words.
Communication Barriers and Hindrances to Active Listening
Active listening can be hindered by diverse barriers. The most significant barriers of good listening skills include;
- Cultural barriers
- Physical barriers
- Inappropriate responses
- False comprehension, and
- Complex responses
These are the common causes of communication breakdown in a conversation that block the benefits of active listening. They cause cause communication breakdown due to;
Overreaching or under-reaching refers to assigning meanings to a communication that are less or more than the intended meaning expressed in a conversation.
The Role of Active Communication in Business Organizations
Active listening is very important for strong business communication skills. In business, listening is an important communication skill for effective information sharing and determines the effectiveness with which the shared information is understood. It influences effective communication between managers and employees especially where detailed instructions are to be given and followed to exact specifications.
The structure of communication in a business setting can be more effective if good active listening skills are observed. It eliminates the common barriers that affect the message passed through in every communication. It also prevents the tendency of rushing with wrong responses while making decisions without first seeking the meaning of the information contained in a communication.
That said, the success of every business organization depends on good communications skills. Mastering active listening techniques enables managers to create an effective team due to enhanced communications skills between managers and employees. That way, messages can be effectively passed within the team and perfectly understood. This increases productivity as the team enjoys strong connections that make it easy to work a team. Otherwise, poor communication skills can result in communication breakdown and other devastating consequences for a business.
Overall, good listening skills enable people to pay attention to the details of the messages passed during conversations. Learning active listening skills can eliminate communication barriers as the listener pays attention to and clarifies messages before making decisions.
Learn more on the benefits of good communication skills and the Cognitive Dissonance Theory of Communication
Bauer, C., Figl, K., & Motschnig-Pitrik, R. (2010). Introducing’Active Listening’to Instant Messaging and E-mail: Benefits and Limitations. IADIS International Journal on WWW/Internet, 7(2), 1-17.
Rogers, C. R., & Farson, R. E. (1957). Active listening. Industrial Relations Center of The University of Chicago.
Team, F. M. E. (2013). Active Listening.