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This report details a specific area of interpersonal communication that I have perceived requires personal growth and development from Assignment one.
The interpersonal communication technique that I have chosen to investigate is my ability to listen to others first or more closely when communicating. I want to improve my ability to listen to other people more by understanding their purpose and opinions before I respond. As noted by Wood (2009), the task of listening can take up to half of our day.
Silvestri (1991), indicates that communication makes a big difference between people and their relationships.
My ideal level of skill would be the ability to understand the purpose and opinion of the person I am talking to exactly. With this understanding I would be able to respond in a manner to achieve my objectives or desired outcome of the conversation.
My perceived current level of skill is lacking in this area. This was identified in Assignment one. For example the conversation with my boss was one sided and I did not listen to her point of view. I instead became agitated at his response to my questions. A second example was when I became angry about a product that I had bought from a store. I was not interested in listening to the store managers response at all since I was very angry already about receiving, what I thought, was a product that was not working at well as I would have liked. When my communication behavior is affected by my emotions it is much harder for me to listen to others. This is especially true with people that I am not as familiar with.
An intervention shall be detailed in this report that aims to improve my skills in this given area. The plan shall then be implemented, recorded and outcomes recorded. A discussion shall then follow on the implications of the techniques used and future implications.
The following intervention will address this development issue that was identified in Assignment one. In my new conversations I shall incorporate new communication techniques that shall hopefully improve my listening skills.
The details of my plan to change my behaviors and create opportunities for me to practice this new skill will be based on the following key areas. Non verbal listening, understanding listening between different cultures, understanding how to resolve conflict better through listening, listening between genders and understanding the benefits of responding more appropriately. I shall record subsequent conversations with different people and determine if there has been a difference in the effectiveness of the conversations. These areas are discussed in more detail below.
Non verbal listening:
My plan shall incorporate non-verbal listening skills. In terms of listening responses, as investigated by Dahl (2001), these may be non verbal like how someone sits or stands. In different cultures this can have different meanings and when combined with other non verbal behaviour may lead to confusion in intercultural settings. Eye contact is used in western culture to indicate someone concentrating on listening to another. Other cultures however may close their eyes when listening to allow them to concentrate more on the person talking to them.
Listening between cultures:
Tannen (1983) details that often cross cultural communication is like following a road or route in which all of the sign posts have changed. Often the listeners observe ramifications and associations that are not meant to be communicated and vice versa. What we communicate sometimes loses the ramifications and associates that we wish to convey, especially between different cultures. Everyone has a different communicative background but according to Tannen (1983), people from different languages and different countries experience greater exuberances and deficiencies. Tannen (1983) suggest that the most important step in understanding why people are misunderstood is to realize the very fact that there are, and that there are concrete reasons for this. As noted by Wood (2009), listening selectively is influenced by culture from a very young age. Babies begin to distinguish the sounds of their particular language.
In conflict, listening is a very important and effective interpersonal communication skill.
It is important to show respect for someone, even if you disagree with the person. Wood (2007) investigates interpersonal conflict. This occurs when individuals share difference perspectives, interests or goals and need to resolve those differences. Interpersonal conflict occurs when disagreements or tensions are expressed. Disagreements may occur overtly or covertly. If it is covertly, it is open and explicit and dealt with in a direct manner. Overt conflicts may involve physical attacks. Most of the time conflicts occur in relationships over different feelings on a particular issue.
Research by Richardson (1991) showed that after receiving a ten minute message, only about half the message on average will be remembered straight away. Also he showed that generally people prefer feedback that is in agreement with them and their experiences but this is often not possible since we all hold different values, opinions and beliefs.
Listening between the genders:
Listening communications are investigated between the genders by Barret (2004). In terms of building and sustaining rapport on the workplace, the report finds that female professionals often involve others in discussion and listen more attentively. On the other hand, males tend to concentrate on loud, clear and direct talking. An effective tool for females within the office is to sometimes use the approach that a man would take. When a woman uses typical male communication devices and assertive language, there is greater shock value and often it can be very effective (Barret, 2004).
Hargie and Dickson (2003), notes that in order to respond correctly to others we must pay attention to the message other people send us and link our responses based on what we hear. The benefits of listening include a better social network, better family relationships, greater self-esteem, improved interpersonal enjoyment, improved grades at school, friends that are closer to you and in general a more rewarding life. In the workplace these advantages translate into greater customer and employee satisfaction, improved productivity, less mistakes, greater sales figure and greater innovation and creativity.
Type of listening:
As pointed out by Hargie (2004) in order to respond appropriately to others, we must pay attention to the messages they are sending and link our responses to these. According to Hargie (2004) there are six types of listening. Firstly there is discriminative listening, listening that focuses on incoming stimuli for feedback purposes. Secondly there is comprehension listening when we receive instructive messages to increase our understanding. Thirdly, evaluative listening occurs when the speaker to tyring to influence our beliefs or actions. Fourthly, appreciative listening happens when we gain pleasure from the message, for example listening to music. Fifthly there is empathic listening when the listener is willing to listen to another who has a need to talk and be understood. Finally there is dialogic listening which emerges from conversational interchange which is a two way exchange that benefits both sides.
Types of listeners:
As noted by Hargie (2004), when we talk we also listen at the same time for feedback. When we listen we evaluate it in order to plan our response. Sometimes we may already know what we are going to say before the other person has finished talking and hence we may not be listening effectively to the other person.
Hargie (2004) details four types of listeners. Firstly there are people-oriented listeners who are interested in others feelings. Secondly, task oriented listeners are more to the point and are concerned with getting business done. Thirdly, content oriented listeners concentrate on the details of information and spend more time on the intricacies of the conversation. Finally time oriented listeners are impatient and are prone to jump to conclusions, often before they have heard all of the relevant information.
Apart from lack of interest or external distractions, Hartley (1999), details two other barriers to effective listening. Firstly verbal battles. Rather than listening to the person we question what the person is saying while they are saying it and then loose track of the points that the person is saying. Secondly there is a problem of fact hunting where we loose sight of the overall message as we are busy trying to concentrate on the facts of the conversation. Effective behavior with effective listening involves being receptive to the person, maintaining attention to the person, removed from distractions and the delay of a response until you have fully understood what has been said to you.
Good listening is described by Hartley (1999) as active listening. You need to encourage the person to talk and show them that you are paying attention. This is while you are absorbing and processing the information that they are saying.
According to Knippen and Green (1994), in many conversations when one person is talking, the other person is just planning on what to say next without listening to the person talking to them. When the person has finished talking, your response is already prepared, but if you have been too busy thinking of what to say yourself, then you are likely to not be able to recall the details of what the other person has just said. To overcome this habit there is a technique called active listening. This technique involves four steps. Firstly it is the restatement of the message. Secondly providing a summary of the important points. Thirdly responding to non verbal cues and fourthly responding to feelings. By summarizing the points made by the communicator a more effective conversation can take place where both parties are better understood.
Possible problems in the analysis of this intervention include factors which may vary the conversations that are outside the main scope of inquiry, that is the listening skills of myself. These include either participants being tired, the other participant knowing that the experiment is taking place and also people that I know becoming suspicious of my new listening techniques. To counter these factors as much as possible I shall ensure that the participants are not visibly tired, are not informed of the experiment and I shall try to be very tactful when trying out my new listening communication techniques on the participants.
In order to apply these new skills various situations were chosen based on the areas that were discussed. Changes to the plan were required in terms of the topics of discussion. This is because the topic of conversations was often driven by the other participant and I was never sure of which direction the conversation was going to take and therefore which new listening technique to use. Identifying the skill to use in each conversation was a skill in itself and this was identified as a modification to the plan that was unforeseen. Summaries of the conversations now follow:
Conversation 1 - Me and my friend talking informally at lunch.
During this conversation I paid more attention to one of my most talkative friends. Often I thought of her as annoying since she would rather talk much more rather than listen to anyone else. In approaching this conversation I listened in an empathic manner to her and showed her that I was interested in listening to her. I also used appropriate body language. By doing this she was more attentive to my subsequent opinions on her conversation.
Conversation 2 - Me and a telephone call to my mobile phone shop to question by bill.
Immediately I could identify that the salesman that I was talking to was a time oriented listener. I assumed that the shop was very busy and that he had many customers to serve. In asking about the different plan options available for my mobile phone he recommended one that I should change to in order to avoid the fee that was in question. I sensed that he was very prone to jump to conclusions before allowing me to fully explain my position. In identifying this I asked him if he was very busy at the moment and if another time would be more appropriate to talk about the plans. He responded yes and he suggested I come into the store at a not so busy time. Hence the outcome of this conversation was improved for both parties.
Conversation 3 - Me and my boyfriend.
This conversation could have resulted in an argument and involved a movie choice for later that week. My boyfriend was very excited about a new horror action movie that he wanted. I also wanted to see a new movie that had just been released in the same week but he was not interested in that movie. We clearly shared a different perspective here and interests that needed to be resolved. I listened to all of his conversation and responded to his thoughts rather than just saying what I thought straight away. Rather than be a task-oriented listener I became a people oriented listener with my boyfriend. On understanding his feelings behind his hard talking, we were able to compromise our movie dates.
Conversation 4 - Me and a study friend talking about a new class topic after class.
Usually this particular study friend of mine is often quick to provide answers to my study questions and does not value my opinion on various topics. Because of this I found that I fell into a habit of always questioning her opinions rather than listening to what she was saying. Identified as a verbal battle, I found that I would then loose track of the points that she was saying. By just listening to her points without judgment until after she had finished talking, I was able to be more receptive to her comments. When I took more time to absorb her information I was in a better positions to respond to her thoughts.
Conversation 5 - My part time job, discussion with my manager.
Recently I had been frustrated at my boss for feeling stressed out within the workplace. I wanted to start to do things in a new way but this was rejected straight away by my boss which I labeled as a discriminative listener. I wanted to turn this into dialogic listening where both sides could be benefit. Slowly after understanding his reasons behind his blunt decisions without discussion or listening to me, I was able to respond to the reasons and understand when and why he was blunt. By listening to his body language, I was also able to catch him when he looked calmer and was more likely to talk and be in a listening mood. By putting myself in his shoes as the listener I was able to make small steps towards my goal.
Converstaion 6 - Me asking my shy friend out for dinner one night with my other friends.
One of my housemates is very reserved and shy usually with conversation. Often her short responses to my conversation with her I dismiss as her being not interested in my social events. I realize that it may have been my lack of listening closely to her which gave her the impression that I was not interested in her opinions as well. By encouraging her to talk more and paying closer attention to what she was saying, I was able to get her to talk more and express herself more to me.
Although effective interpersonal communication depends not just on listening, it is an essential skill, which may be seen as one of the most important. Listening may be influenced heavily by cultural influences, relationships and gender roles in many individual contexts.
By researching new listening interpersonal communication techniques and then applying them to daily scenarios, I discovered new techniques of improving my skills in this area.
I am satisfied that I was able to understand these new concepts and apply them in real life in a practical manner. One effective tools used by listeners is to put yourself in the speakers shoes. In trying to see the world from their point of view you may be in a better position to understand them and reply more appropriately.
The original goal was perhaps slightly unrealistic since no matter how much study is invested into the skill of listening, it is not always possible to completely understand the purpose and opinions of another. There are always ramifications and associations that are communicated in both directions. Sometimes it is not possible to analyze completely, especially a short conversation or with someone that I have just met, the ramifications and associations involved. Despite this, together with my new listening techniques, I am confident I now have improved my listening interpersonal communication skills.
Shafir (2003), suggest that we should listen in a more mindful manner as listening is the first step in making people feel more valued. When understanding is achieved on both sides, a sense of calm is achieved on both sides, despite agreement not necessarily being met. When we really listen to another person, the other person is likely to reduce their pretense and get to the point quicker.
Given my further research into the area of interpersonal communication listening skills I will need to make it a part of my normal routine when communicating at all times.
Different contexts of listening may involve listening to people third hand in a group of people of which I may be unfamiliar with. By listening to their purpose and opinions I will also be able to obtain a greater understanding of the character of that person, even if the person is not directly talking to me, or even if I do not need to give a response.
Another context is stress within the workplace. Increased listening and communication techniques can also assist greatly in avoiding job burnout as discussed by Cronin (1990). Poor interpersonal skills are a major cause of problems on the job and are the main reason for job burnout. Job burnout refers to unmediated stress that may be physical or emotional exhaustion within the workplace. People want to feel appreciated within any organization and listening and talking with all employees is essential to make them feel part of the team. Employees and also their managers need to listen to their ideas and concerns. Henricks (1997) notes that the ability to sit down with someone and establish rapport quickly rather than just thinking about facts and logic, can greatly improve meeting effectiveness.
These new techniques may also be relevant by identifying and understanding other people who fail to listen to me adequately and when I fail in listening to them. By identifying this I may be able to respond in a way that is more understanding and tactful in order for them to listen to me better.