Understanding The Stages Of Effective Listening | Why You Should Practice Active Listening
We often say to others that we are listening to them, but are we? Are we listening or just hearing? There are stages of listening that we are probably not aware of. Skipping or neglecting these stages of the listening process can make for ineffective communication.
Every aspect of our life whether it be social, professional, or personal is connected with communication. One of the most essential skills required for said communication is listening. This skill is something that we practice every moment of our everyday life.
Whether we’re listening to music on our commute, listening to our spouse/partner talking, or listening to the sound of nature when we’re relaxing.
Effective listening makes up for effective communication. What we listen to is what makes up our oral response. Understanding the stages of listening can help you improve your existing listening skills or help you practice effective listening.
In this blog, I’ll be explaining to you the 5 stages of listening and why you should practice active listening for effective and healthy communication.
The Stages Of Listening
Here are the 5 stages of listening that you should follow to improve your listening skills:
The very first stage of listening is receiving information or a message from the speaker. This involves interpreting the message as it is said. During this stage, the listener should avoid thinking about things other than what is being said by the speaker. Ignoring this can ensure missed or misinterpreted information.
All you have to do during this stage is to focus on what the other person is saying, what is the context of their message, and ensure that no information is misinterpreted or missed. Attention to what is being said is the very first stage of effective listening.
The second stage of listening is understanding. Comprehension is that stage where the listener focuses solely on the context and meaning of the message they’re hearing. Understanding the context means understanding the words, the meaning behind the words spoken.
When you’re practicing effective listening, make sure you ask questions to understand the meaning behind the words spoken.
During this third stage of listening, the listener evaluates the message, the information given before they formulate a reply. During the evaluating stage, the listener determines whether the information spoken is well-constructed or muddles, partial or impartial, invalid or valid. Here the motivation of the speaker is also considered.
For example; your partner forgets to do the dishes and that makes you antsy. While it is making you edgy, evaluating means knowing that due to stress at work, they are a little distracted. Please remember that listening is not only verbal. Non-verbal cues are also important in determining communication habits.
After you’ve received, understood, and evaluated the message, the next stage of listening is responding. As the terms suggest, at this stage, the listener offers a response (either verbal or nonverbal). Nonverbal responses can include nodding, making steady eye contact, smiling, etc. A silent listener is never a good listener.
Responding appropriately and at the right times show that you are listening, are interested, and are participating in the communication process. Responding is, too, an important stage of the listening process. This stage determines if the listener is understanding the message as it is meant to be.
If the listener does not remember what they’ve heard, they were probably not effectively listening. Even a small distraction can cause misinterpretation of the message. Remembering the smallest detail of the conversation is imperative to the listening process. The remembering stage of listening helps us move forward with communication.
What Can Be The Barriers To Effective Listening?
Understanding the stages of listening is not enough. Understanding the barriers to effective listening is as important as the stages of listening.
1. Lack Of Concentration
Lack of concentration is or not paying attention to the conversation is one of the biggest barriers to effective listening. This lack of concentration can be an outcome of many situations such as distractions, discomfort, psychological distress, lack of interest, etc. Regardless of the reason, the lack of concentration can affect your effective listening skills.
2. Lack Of Information
Many a time, people judge a message even before hearing the rest of it. This poor judgment can lead to a lack of information, which in turn, can lead to inaccurate assessment or inappropriate response.
For example; your spouse/partner begins to say something at the beginning of the conversation that may make you angry, even if that was not their intention. However, now your perception of the entire conversation has changed.
3. Lack Of Context
Just as lack of information is crucial, the lack of context is crucial to a conversation. Focusing too much on less important details can make the speaker forget the context, which in turn, can make the listener tune out of the conversation. Information that isn’t relevant should be left out and the listener should be able to identify the important part of the conversation.
4. Lack Of Presentation
Focusing on the style as well as the content is also very important. Lack of presentation, or more likely, lack of appropriate presentation can also contribute to ineffective listening. How the message is delivered as well as what of the message is beneficial for the listener to practice effective communication.
What Is The Solution?
Active listening! Active listening is a listening technique that allows the listener to offer a response to what they hear. This exercise aims to confirm what the listener has heard and has understood.
Active listening not only improves communication skills but also decreases the risk of misunderstanding, conflicts, and encourages understanding.
The three techniques of active listening are:
To practice active listening, you should:
- Focus your attention on the speaker
- Follow the three techniques (Paraphrasing, clarifying, and summarizing)
- Don’t react or comment in between until asked
- Pay attention to the feelings of the speaker
- If you don’t understand the meaning of their words, ask them for clarification
- Don’t ignore the nonverbal cues. Body language, facial expressions, gestures, etc, mean a lot
- Think before you speak. To respond appropriately, you need to think about your words and how they will affect the speaker. Don’t hastily say something that you might later regret
Listening Is Important…
Whether we agree or not, listening is an important part of our communication. The step to become a good listener is to understand the stages of listening and how they may affect your day-to-day communication. Understand the barriers of effective listening and practice active listening.
Next time you’re engaged in a conversation, listen actively, listen carefully!
If you need help with honing your listening skills, you can consult a counsellor here. Professional counseling can help a lot when it comes to improving your communication skills. If you need additional help, you can write to us at email@example.com or DM us on our social media.
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