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Listening is an essential part of communication and is different from hearing. Listening means paying constant attention and making sense of what is being said. Hearing on the other hand is merely acknowledging that someone is speaking. Hearing is passive while listening is active. Listening is a non verbal skill. It is the act of interpreting, remembering and understanding what has been said. A listener is of two types; a good listener and a bad listener.
A good listener is one who is patient and calm. He is a critical thinker who listens to each word said carefully and without judgment or interruption. He is active, persistent and shows carefully consideration when listening to what is being said. A good listener can place himself in the shoes of others, see how what is being said impacts him and see their point of view. He can tune out distractions and focus on what the speaker is saying. He also makes notes and jots down the important points. He is attentive, does not interrupt and picks out verbal and non verbal cues from the speaker. He knows that listening is the primary source of knowledge.
On the other hand a bad listener is the exact opposite of a good listener. He pretends to be listening to what is being said while he lets his mind wander to irrelevant issues. He does not pick out the main idea of what is being said and often finds what the speaker says to be boring. He listens to sounds rather than the words of what is being said. He gives in freely to distractions and is often a noisemaker who distracts the attention of others in the process. He is the person who is mostly to relaxed in class and sits in informal positions.
Listening is also of two types; active listening and passive listening.
Active listening is the act of hearing the words and identifying the feelings associated with the words. An active listener concentrates on what is being said and is able to tune out unnecessary distractions. To be an active listener one must show empathy, acceptance and willingness to take responsibility for completeness. An active listener shows reactions to prove that he is listening and has understood what has been said, this could be; nodding, making eye contact, facial expressions, asking questions, paraphrasing, not talking too much and so forth. Furthermore he reflects on the main point and summarizes what has been said. He is also able to pick out the verbal and non verbal cues from the speaker.
Passive listening according to Baker(1971)is the listening done whereby there is little self perception or personal involvement on the part of the listener. A passive listener is one who is inattentive and uninvolved l does not identify the meaningful signals and cannot interpret what is being said. He listens without reaction and doesnâ€™t show signs that he understands what is being said.. He is the type who interrupts the speaker before he or she finishes speaking. This is not the best listening habit. A passive listener can be illustrated as a rock, he can be seen but he does not absorb any information. It goes in through one ear and comes out the other. He is the type that easily forgets and stores irrelevant information in his memory. He often misses out on the verbal and non verbal cues given by the speaker during a conversation. He lets his mind wander far and near during a conversation and appears to be listening but is really somewhere else. He does not contribute to the subject and doesnâ€™t give back feedbacks. A passive reader has a short concentration span.
Attention is a requirement of learning. We cannot understand, learn or remember something unless we pay attention. Passive attention is uncontrolled and dependant on external factors.
There are various consequences of being a passive listener. Some of which are discussed below;
Passive listeners practice hearing i.e. they hear only the sounds coming out of the speakers mouth. They do do not cultivate good listening skills i.e. they are not effective listeners. They do not make a habit out of listening attentively and understanding what is being said. They pretend to listen while letting their minds wander supreme, giving in to distractions and so on.
Passive listeners have a short concentration span; this means that they only concentrate for short periods of time. Due to distractions which they may give out or receive, they allow their mind to wander to irrelevant issues which do not concern what they are listening to. When they find a topic boring or difficult their state of mind changes towards that topic .i.e. they are instantly put off by it and are not encouraged to learn more, they pretend to listen and understand and do not concentrate on what is being said.
Also, passive listeners miss out the key points and the main idea of what is being said. They only surface listen which is pretending to listen. Even though they are physically present there mind is not. They do not watch out for the importance of the lesson. Again due to distractions or voluminous jottings they miss out the verbal and non verbal cues the speaker gives out.
In addition to, passive listeners do not focus completely on what the speaker is saying. They often misinterpret his points which could lead to disagreements, talking out of turn and debates between the passive listener and the speaker.
Furthermore, passive listeners normally possess bad sitting postures. One should be comfortable while listening but not to relaxed. They are often to relaxed while listening which may give rise to sleep and missing the aim of the lesson.
Also passive listeners do not give out positive gestures to show that they are listening and comprehending what is being said. Like nodding of the had in agreement, paraphrasing what is being said, positive or negative facial expressions, asking relevant questions within and outside the topic, clapping, shaking of the head in disagreement and so on.
In addition to, passive listeners are the type that makes irrelevant copious notes which distracts them from the importance of the lesson while pretending to be listening. They write down almost everything the speaker says thinking that that is what is important. They do not jot down and summarize the key points of the topic .
They do not possess an undivided attention thereby giving in to distraction which are; noise making, using of phones or other gadgets at the wrong time, constantly looking at ones watch, listening to music while listening, etc.
Passive listeners do not reflect and put into use what is being said, bring up meaningless points and are mostly the people who come in late and leave early, sit at the back and never in the front rows unless they are told to do so. They are not critical thinkers, they do not think deep about what they are listening to.
Passive listeners do not keep an open mind when they are listening; they are not matured listeners and are the type that are easily put off by irrelevant things. They look for the faults in the speaker or in what he is saying rather than grasping the importance of his topic.
There are various guidelines or rules one must follow to be a good listener. This includes; stopping anything one is doing when a discussion is going on, ensuring that there are no barriers or distractions around, making observations not copious notes one will not understand in the future but summarizing the key points i.e. year in which events occurred, peopleâ€™s names, names of cities or countries, occupation of people etc. Sitting at ease but not being too relaxed which may give way to sleep, not allowing oneâ€™s mind wander away, putting into practice the habit of paying attention to someone and not being discouraged by earlier failures, keeping an eye out for the main points of the lecture, not sitting with people who could be a distraction and not being a distraction our self, getting the information first and not looking out for irrelevant flaws with the speaker.
In conclusion, we have learnt what listening is, the difference between listening and hearing, the differences between a good and bad listener, types of listening, guidelines to being a good listener, what one should do when one is speaking, what distractions are, the differences between an active and a passive listener and the consequences of being a passive listener. Therefore one must strive to be an effective and active listener so as to be a better learner.