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The Benefits of Active Listening There are three main listening styles.

With a combative listening style, you're basically waiting for the other person to make a mistake so that you can attack it, or waiting for a break in the conversation to interject your point. With the passive listening style, you listen patiently to what the other person is saying, while feeling like you're more or less comprehending what is being said. More effective than either of these styles is the active listening style, in which you verify that you've not only heard, but understand, the message conveyed. Avoid Misunderstandings One of the most obvious reasons to master active listening is to assure that you have received the message as the speaker intended it. Not accurately understanding what is said can lead to mix-ups, misunderstandings, and damaged personal and professional relationships. When you apply an active listening technique -- for example, paraphrasing what the speaker has just said -- you get validation that you've accurately grasped the message as the speaker intended it. Build Relationships People like to know that they are being heard and understood. By actively taking in both what they are saying, and also the emotions behind the message, you're creating an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding. The speaker is more likely to be open and honest with you if he knows he's speaking to a sympathetic, active listener. Improve Productivity Active listening can be an invaluable skill in the workplace. Particularly during boring meetings which nonetheless convey key information, it can be easy to drift off into passive listening mode, missing much of what's being said. By finding an active way to take in the information, such as asking questions, the listener is more likely to retain it. Overcome Disagreement Rather than taking a combative stance in a disagreement, sometimes objectively mirroring back what a speaker is saying can help your debate opponent find holes in her own logic. Often just knowing that she's been heard is enough to coax her to soften her position and consider other options. If the topic is emotionally charged, it can be particularly cathartic for the speaker to know you've taken his message in, thus preventing "emotional flooding" or being overwhelmed by negative feelings, which can get in the way of a calm resolution.

Environmental and Physical Barriers to Listening Environmental factors such as lighting, temperature, and furniture affect our ability to listen. A room that is too dark can make us sleepy, just as a room that is too warm or cool can raise awareness of our physical discomfort to a point that it is distracting. Some

Rehearsal of what we will say once a speaker’s turn is over is an important part of the listening process that takes place between the recalling and evaluation and/or the . a broken leg. we can process between 400 and 800 words per minute. and prejudices can interfere with listening. While people speak at a rate of 125 to 175 words per minute.” Response preparation refers to our tendency to rehearse what we are going to say next while a speaker is still talking. Ailments such as a cold. or a poison ivy outbreak can range from annoying to unbearably painful and impact our listening relative to their intensity. Psychological noise. we all cognitively process other things while receiving messages. If that one channel is a lecture being given by your professor. like environmental noise. The generally positive emotional state of being in love can be just as much of a barrier as feeling hatred. Physiological noise Physiological noise. In general. listening is easier when listeners can make direct eye contact with and are in close physical proximity to a speaker. If you think of your listening mind as a wall of ten televisions. selective attention which refers to our tendency to pay attention to the messages that benefit us in some way and filter others out.seating arrangements facilitate listening. positive or negative. Cognitive and Personal Barriers to Listening Aside from the barriers to effective listening that may be present in the environment or emanate from our bodies. So the student who is checking his or her Twitter feed during class may suddenly switch his or her attention back to the previously ignored professor when the following words are spoken: “This will be important for the exam. can facilitate or impede listening. you may notice that in some situations five of the ten televisions are tuned into one channel. or bodily stress. Psychological noise psychological noise. Any mood or state of arousal. or noise stemming from our psychological states including moods and level of arousal. Physiological noise is noise stemming from a physical illness. that is too far above or below our regular baseline creates a barrier to message reception and processing. can interfere with our ability to process incoming information. or drifting off. daydreaming. cognitive limits. Excited arousal can also distract as much as anxious arousal. glazing over. Difference between Speech and Thought Rate Our ability to process more information than what comes from one speaker or source creates a barrier to effective listening. injury. This gap between speech rate and thought rate gives us an opportunity to side-process any number of thoughts that can be distracting from a more important message. a lack of listening preparation. bridges physical and cognitive barriers to effective listening. This is considered a physical barrier to effective listening because it emanates from our physical body. then you are exerting about half of your cognitive processing abilities on one message. a headache. difficult or disorganized messages. while others separate people. Whether you call it multitasking.

people do not embrace it as readily as they do opportunities to enhance their speaking skills. Rehearsal becomes problematic when response preparation begins as someone is receiving a message and hasn’t had time to engage in interpretation or recall. Bad Listening Practices “bad listening” practices may be habitual. right. verbal fillers. most people have never received any formal training or instruction related to listening. which can have relatively little negative effects if we are casually recounting a story. we are listening with the goal of responding instead of with the goal of understanding. In this sense. In terms of message construction. or too simple can present listening difficulties. or too simple can present listening difficulties. poorly structured messages or messages that are too vague. These bad listening practices include interrupting. aggressive listening. Unfortunately. Distorted Listening Distorted listening occurs in many ways.evaluation and responding stage. In terms of speakers’ delivery. left. eavesdropping. poorly structured messages or messages that are too vague. which can lead us to miss important information that could influence our response. distracting movements. In terms of speakers’ delivery. or very negative effects if we recount the events of a crime out . too jargon filled. Sometimes our trouble listening originates in the sender. verbal fillers. narcissistic listening. competent listening is difficult. Sometimes our trouble listening originates in the sender. Sometimes we just get the order of information wrong. Bad Messages and/or Speakers Bad messages and/or speakers also present a barrier to effective listening. Bad Messages and/or Speakers Bad messages and/or speakers also present a barrier to effective listening. distorted listening. Lack of Listening Preparation Another barrier to effective listening is a general lack of listening preparation. too jargon filled. or a disheveled appearance can inhibit our ability to cognitively process a message. In terms of message construction. right?) in our driving directions. monotone voices. left or right. and pseudo-listening. distracting movements. and enhancing listening skills takes concerted effort. but they are easier to address with some concerted effort. or a disheveled appearance can inhibit our ability to cognitively process a message. monotone voices. Even when listening education is available. annoying effects if we forget the order of turns (left. Although some people think listening skills just develop over time.

Aggressive Listening Aggressive listening is a bad listening practice in which people pay attention in order to attack something that a speaker says. there may be figurative “noise” from the external environment. concepts and ideas.  Criticizing the speaker. turn down the ringer on your phone.  Focusing on a personal agenda.rather than the messenger. Aggressive listeners like to ambush speakers in order to critique their ideas. Try to focus on the relevant information. and the central points that are being conveyed. Strategies for effective listening . Also. You may wish to communicate that this is not a good time. Some things can be minimized – e. we cannot be fully attentive to what the speaker is saying.. There is a difference between eavesdropping on and overhearing a conversation. Otherwise. Such behavior often results from built-up frustration within an interpersonal relationship. the more two people know each other.g.. construction. Focus on what they are saying . When we spend our listening time formulating our next response. Feeling physically unwell. other people.the message .  Getting distracted by emotional noise. Eavesdropping Eavesdropping is a bad listening practice that involves a calculated and planned attempt to secretly listen to a conversation. given that our perceptual fields are usually focused on the interaction. you may just need to concentrate even more on the task of listening.  Experiencing information overload. Too much stimulation or information can make it very difficult to listen with full attention. Audible noise may be extremely distracting. nonverbal cues). Make a conscious effort to quiet your own emotional reactions so that you can listen properly. such as distracting or inappropriate decor in a room. However. Many if not most of the interactions we have throughout the day occur in the presence of other people. We react emotionally to certain words. We usually only become aware of the fact that other people could be listening in when we’re discussing something private. and the e-mail beep on the computer while meeting with someone. and to a myriad of other cues from speakers (appearance. personality.of order. Do not be distracted by critical evaluations of the speaker. and reschedule the discussion. Other noises may be unavoidable – e.  Experiencing physical difficulty.g.  Getting distracted by external “noise”. Unfortunately. or other characteristics. the better they will be at aggressive listening. or environmental conditions such as the room being too hot or cold. we are often unaware of the other people around us or don’t think about the fact that they could be listening in on our conversation. or experiencing pain can make it very difficult to listen effectively. which leads to faulty testimony at a criminal trial.

 Look. Notice body language and non-verbal cues to allow for a richer understanding of the speaker’s point. rather than reacting to the individual words or terms that they use to express themselves. Focus on the other person. and step away from your own concerns to think about those of the speaker. as long as you acknowledge what they are experiencing. You need not be drawn into all of their problems or issues. Use questions to clarify your understanding. their thoughts and feelings. Seek an overall understanding of what the speaker is trying to communicate. . avoid getting distracted from the verbal message.  Be empathetic. Imagine how you would feel in their circumstances. Listen for the essence of the speaker’s thoughts: details. without letting yourself be distracted. major ideas and their meanings. Give your full attention to the speaker. as well as to demonstrate interest in what is being said. while maintaining a calm centre within yourself. Consciously focus on quieting your own internal commentary.  Listen. However. Be empathetic to the feelings of the speaker. Stop.  Ask questions. Pay attention to non-verbal messages.