Importance of Listening in Communication

This is a part of Communication Skills write-up published on the website earlier.

Importance of Listening in Communication

Listening in communication is very important. Until and unless we listen to what is being said we cannot understand the message. Good Listening will happen only when we are focused on what is being said and stop our judgements about the speaker.

  1. I listen – I hear the words you speak
  2. I listen – I translate the meaning behind the words you speak
  3. I listen – I understand your meaning behind the words you speak
  4. I listen – I understand your meaning, your intent and am focused only on that  

We listen to spoken words and then understand the meaning and process it in our brain. Listening occupies a big part in communication because if no one is listening then communication can never be effective. We hear words and then try to understand the underlying meaning of words that is the time we start listening. listening is very different from hearing.

For effective listening, it’s necessary to clear our brain with all preconceived notions, judgements and our personal mood. Preconceived notions act as a big barrier in listening. We start predicting about the person, the outcome, the beginning and ending according to our previous experience and memory. We forget that ideally it’s impractical to forecast that the same thing will happen as we had experienced earlier. When we sit in the audience seat we start predicting about the speaker and also start doubting his credibility, that is the time our mind starts wandering and we stop listening.

We listen with a concentrated mind and it is never possible to listen to someone with a distracted mind. A concentrated mind bends all energies to one point and helps us in listening better. A good eye contact, right gesture and posture helps in listening better. When we maintain eye contact with the speaker we  try to process the spoken information and start understanding the non-verbals which are being communicated. It is practically possible when we divert all energies towards listening and try to understand the spoken words of the speaker.

Barriers to listening can be caused by sleep, our sad mood, stress, overwork, financial problem or our personal problem, ill health.

A person who is over stressed with work or cannot sleep due to tension at home or office is less likely to listen to anything. He may doze off and fall asleep in between sessions and lose track of things delivered by the speaker. For active listening its very necessary that a person should feel fresh and be receptive to new ideas and thoughts.

Sad mood can act as a barrier in listening. Sad mood can be due to personal or professional problems. The person thinks about the same incident again and again and looks for probable solutions and reminds himself of the same thought again and again which leads to stress and the person displays a close mind and is physically present but mentally absent.

Stress happens in our day to day life and when it rises and occupies the top of our head that is the time we start experiencing problems. It inhibits us from doing routine work and we do not listen actively to others. Stress can be due to work, personal problems or due to other physical problems or diseases. A stressful person looks for personal solutions and cannot listen actively and may be attentive to only a part of the message which leads to a barrier in communication.

Listening plays a vital role in understanding the message. If a person does not participate actively in listening to the message, there are chances of misunderstanding. Understanding the message in the same form as the speaker wants the listener to understand is very important for effective communication.

A person understands the message according to his experiences and knowledge and it may or may not be the same as the communicated message. Therefore for better understanding its necessary to practice active listening. Talk to the speaker and clear doubts. Be in a positive frame of mind. A positive attitude plays a vital role in listening ability because if we do not feel good about the topic we will not listen to it. It’s necessary for us to be interested in it so that we listen to it and understand it.

Effective Listening 

A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something – Wilson Mizener

The way audience receives your message –

  • How it looks – 50 %
  • What you say – 10 %
  • How it sounds – 40 % (Music to the ears or harsh)

Barriers to Effective listening:

  • We “know” what we are going to hear
  • We judge delivery (How they say it), not content (What they say)
  • We are seeking confirmation, not information
  • What’s being said is getting in the way of what needs to be said


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