In ancient Indian culture, as well as in other civilisations around the world, the ability to listen carefully was considered extremely important and a prized skill. For, information and knowledge were passed on orally from one generation to the next.
But, active listening isn’t all about acquiring information. In fact, it is critical for engaging in meaningful two-way communication, which includes receiving and evaluating information, both said and unsaid, and responding.
D Renukadevi published an article titled, ‘The Role of Listening in Language Acquisition; the Challenges & Strategies in Teaching Listening’, in the International Journal of Education and Information Studies (2014). In her study, she says, “Listening is the most significant part of communication as it is pivotal in providing a substantial and meaningful response. Especially in learning a language for communicative purpose, listening plays a vital role, as it helps the language learner to acquire pronunciation, word stress, vocabulary, and syntax and the comprehension of messages conveyed can be based solely on tone of voice, pitch and accent; and it is only possible when we listen.”
As far as parents are concerned, good listening skills can help them understand or decode what their child is unable to express, either due to the lack of language skills or an unwillingness to open up.
With the advantages of active listening being many, wouldn’t you also want to become a good listener? Read on to know how you can become better at listening.
Factors that affect active listening
While there are many factors that can make one label an individual as a bad listener, some of the common ones are:
- Preoccupation: Being concerned with some other thought(s) during an interaction usually results in the listener paying little, or even no attention to the speaker.
- Multitasking: Doing a task while carrying on a conversation can lead to divided attention, which can result in the listener missing out a lot of details.
- Prejudgment: The habit of prejudging can make an individual lose interest in listening to what is being said.
- Distractions/disruptions: Frequent interruptions during a conversation can divert the attention and prevent an individual from listening.
- Defensiveness: An individual who doesn’t like being criticised becomes disapproving and defensive, and stops listening when something is being said against him.
- Health issues: Various physical and mental health issues can also make an individual a bad listener.
- Culture: A cultural difference causing variation in accent, bias, style of presentation and so on can make an individual disinterested in listening.
Poor listening can lead to
- Wrong judgment: Listening involves focus and gathering information, before processing it. Poor listening skills do not allow gathering of an adequate amount of information, which may lead to wrong judgment.
- Faulty prioritisation: Poor listening can prevent an individual from focussing on the right areas during a conversation, which can prevent her from identifying the most important from the least, leading to wrong prioritisation.
- Misunderstandings/conflicts: Wrong judgment as a result of poor listening can give rise to misunderstandings or conflicts in relationships.
- Mishaps/accidents: Not listening to instructions attentively can lead to mishaps/accidents, which, in some cases, may also lead to a loss of life.
Active listening helps to
- Encourage the speaker to open up
- Gain in-depth information
- Increase knowledge
- Understand perspectives
- Diffuse/decrease disagreements
- Show respect to the speaker
- Build and strengthen relationships
How to become a better listener
- Pay attention: One of the objectives of listening is to gather maximum information by hearing out your child. So, brush aside distractions and listen with rapt attention to what he says.
- Listen with an open mind: Avoid prejudging or trying to anticipate what your child is going to say. Allow the conversation to end and then draw the conclusion based on what he has said.
- Show empathy: Try to understand things from the perspective of your child by putting yourself in his shoes. Also, put forth your opinion or response in a respectful manner.
- Be responsive: Nodding, smiling, keeping eye contact, maintaining proper body posture, and uttering verbal cues are a few ways of making your child understand that you are interested.
- Question and clarify: Ask relevant questions to clear any doubts and to ensure that you have understood exactly what your child was trying to tell you.
- Practise: Remember the old adage, ‘Practice makes a man perfect’. Like all other skills, becoming a better listener also requires putting in effort and constant practice.
While we are all born with the ability to listen; however, honing the skill requires a conscious effort. And, now that you know all about the benefits of listening and how to become a good listener, why not set yourself on the path to becoming a better listener.
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