Listening – guidelines for myself for improving this important and necessary skill
“Listening may be defined as the process of receiving, understanding, remembering, evaluating, and responding to verbal [spoken or written]and/or nonverbal messages (DeVito p.148).” Listening is vital in the business world and is one of the most important and most valued communication skill we can have because at work we spend most of our times listening to co-workers, supervisors, and managers. Poor listening is inevitable and the good news is that listening can be improved through training.
1. How can I improve my listening skills in work situations to improve my overall performance?
In today’s workplace if we are going to function effectively in increase our overall performance we need to listen. In work situations one of the ways I can improve my listening skills “is by improving my listening ability by strengthening the skills needed at each step of the listening process such as attention and concentration (receiving), learning(understanding), memory(remembering), critical thinking(evaluation), and competence in giving feedback (responding) (DeVito p. 148-149).” I can face the speaker and maintain good eye-contact (a sign of honesty and a basic ingredient for effective communication). I can then start being attentive. Attentive means to be present, to pay and give attention to the speaker’s verbal and nonverbal messages.
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Understanding requires that I learn what the speaker means. I don’t interrupt and I don’t offer solutions if I am not being asked to. It is always polite to wait for the person that speaks to pause if clarifying questions need to be asked. These questions need to be used only to endure understanding. Also, if I want to communicate feedback I ask permission to do so. At work is imperative at the end of a message to rephrase in my own words what I heard to make sure I understood correctly the meaning of the message. “Effective listening depends on remembering. (DeVito p.152) Taking notes and sometimes recording the message can be helpful with remembering the message. Evaluating is useful after a message has been clearly understood. Responding happens in two phases: immediate feedback – responses that I make while speaker is still talking and delayed feedback- responses that I make after the speaker has stopped talking.
2. How can I improve my listening behaviors with a significant other?
Personally, we want partners who listen to us. “If we are to understand what a person means and what a personal is feeling, you need to listen with some degree of empathy, the feeling of another’s feelings. (Rogers, 1970)” At home I can improve my listening behaviors with a significant other by engaging actively in the following behaviors: “communicate a clear willingness to listen (DeVito p.162).” First, I need to let my spouse know that I am open to listen to his thoughts and feelings. Create an atmosphere of openness and trust because this help my significant other with self-disclosing – revealing information about himself that might be difficult to communicate.
When listening to my spouse it is important that I look directly to him and I position my body towards him. In close intimate relationships, the emphatic style is the preferred mode of listening and depending on the situations nonjudgmental, active and depth could also be used. Emphatic listening allows me to understand my spouse’s meaning of the message the way he sees it and the way he feels it. It is essential that I echo his nonverbal expressions to demonstrate that I understand and feel my spouse’s thoughts and feelings.
Lastly, it is desirable at the end of a message to give positive feedback and ask questions. It is important that I state to him in clear and honest language what I liked about his message, to stress my good intentions and to mention areas of agreement or disagreement. Asking questions is helpful in case I need to secures additional information and to reaffirm my interest and concern for my spouse. Research shows that practicing these behaviors and especially engaging in emphatic listening helps me to enhance my relationship (Barrett & Godfrey, 1988; Snyder, 1992).
3. How can I improve my listening skills with a child?
Every parent knows that parenting is hard work. When I became a mother, I realized that I have not always displayed the best listening skills with my son Daniel. Over the years through instruction and practice I have improved my listening skills. Here are the most significant ones that I have found useful and rewarding: it is crucial to let the child know that you are interested in listening to what he/she needs to communicate. Avoid all distraction and fully tune your attention and your body to all his/her verbal and nonverbal communication. Physically get down to the child’s level and bring active, emphatic and objective listening styles listening to them and their messages. From a child’s prospective it is necessary to feel that the parent is seen as a base to which they can always return when they need help and support.
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In my experience, whenever I use these types of listening I communicate to my child that he is a valuable person worthy of my time and attention. I also demonstrate that I appreciate, feel, and see his world through his own eyes instead of my own and that I can walk in his shoes and feel the way he feels. Acceptance is paramount here. This is a special time when the child gets to express without being interrupted or judged. It is crucial for parents to do this because they get to create a caring and loving relationship with the child and a positive and supportive environment for their child to grow.
4. How can improve my listening skills with someone I dislike, but need to communicate with?
Sometime I encounter a situation where I need to communicate with someone that I make up I dislike. How can I improve my listening skills in these types of situations? Polite listening style is essential here. “Politeness may be signaled through listening (Fukushima, 2000). To start I can accept the reality that I need to communicate with this person and the dislike is more about me and is not about the other person. Next, I need to scan my body language that could leak out my attitude.
Listening with curiosity and with intent to learn also helps. Show empathy with the speaker. Show that I understand the speaker’s thoughts and feelings by “echoing the feelings of the speaker. (DeVito p.162).” The goal here is not to agree with him/her, but to assess what they are trying to express. Finally, give the person consistent feedback to show that I am attentive and they are being listened to.
Great communicators are great listeners. Listening is a vital component in communication and in interpersonal communication because it helps us know others. After carefully reading chapter 6 and completing this assignment I come to believe that to improve my relationships with others and increase my overall performance at school or work I must participate in cultivating proven and effective listening skills. This requires effort, openness and a willingness to change a few unhealthy habits with new ones. It is self-evident that by developing a daily practice my relationships and life can benefit increasing my chances of becoming likeable, loveable, friendly and agreeable, and these are all qualities I value and consider worth changing for.
DeVito, Joseph A. (2016)
The Interpersonal Communication Book – 14th edition: Boston: Pearson Education, Inc
Barrett, L., & Godfrey, T. (1988). Listening. Person Centered Review 3 (November), 410-425
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