Understanding and Supporting Others

The Nature of


The Importance of Listening
Listening is arguably a more valued skill than speaking and is the most frequent form of communication. Listening comprises 55 percent of a college students¶ communication time while business executives spend 60 percent of their communication time listening. Listening skills are just as important to an entry-level worker as it is it to managers and supervisors in several key areas: job and career success, productivity, upward mobility, communication training, and organizational effectiveness. In committed relationships, listening to personal information in everyday conversations is considered an important ingredient of satisfaction. According to John Gentile, listening to one another¶s personal narratives is fundamental to our humanity and sense of well-being. Most people have a favorable selfrating of their listening skills, which contrast sharply with their actual abilities. The good news is that listening can be improved through instruction and training.

Time Devoted to Communication Activities

Speaking Writing Media Listening Interpersonal Listening

Listening Defined
Hearing and listening are not identical. Hearing is the process in which sound waves strike the eardrum and cause vibrations that are transmitted to the brain. Listening occurs when the brain reconstructs these electrochemical impulses into a representation of the original sound and then gives them meaning. Hearing is not preventable. Our ears will pick up sound waves and transmit them to our brain whether you want them to or not. Listening is not automatic. Sometimes we can automatically block out irritating sounds such as a neighbor¶s lawn mower or the roar of traffic. We also stop listening when we find a subject unimportant or uninteresting. There are two different types of listening. ³Mindless listening´ and ³Mindful Listening´. Mindless listening occurs when we react to others¶ messages automatically and routinely without much mental investment. Mindless listening is a low-level form of information processing and is beneficial because it allows us to focus our minds on information that requires careful attention. The only way to realistically manage the level of information we receive is to be ³lazy towards many of them by use of mindless listening.

Listening Defined Continued«
Mindful Listening involves giving careful and thoughtful attention and responses to the messages we receive. We tend to listen mindfully when a message is important or when someone we care about is speaking about something important to them. Sometimes we respond mindlessly to information that deserves and even demands our mindful attention. An example provided by the book explains a granddaughter¶s desire to study mindfulness when here grandmother complained about headaches caused by a ³snake crawling around´ beneath her skull. The doctors diagnosed the problem as senility because they reasoned that as people age they tend to talk nonsense. Unfortunately, the grandmother had a brain tumor that eventually killed her. Had the doctors listened more mindfully, perhaps they would have diagnosed the grandmother correctly and found the tumor.

Reasons for Listening
To Understand
When listening to someone talk one could agree that the most apparent reason is so that they can understand what is being said. The main goal is to retain the information so that it can be applied to something that might be beneficial to themselves or others. Being able to understand something can be directly tied to how someone will further them self in life. Some examples are going to school, getting a job, getting a promotion, or getting better at a sport, all of those things involve listening and understanding in order to succeed. Though there are some cases were people lack the ability to understand even though they are motivated to. An example of that could be when someone is trying to tell a contractor how they want their home to be remodeled and the contractor doesn¶t quite understand. The role could also be reversed where the client doesn¶t understand what the contractor is trying to say. Sometimes people can also just not want to understand what is being said to them. A great example of that would be when my friend and I went dirt biking and we both went off of this huge jump. We both end up explaining the moment to each other but neither of us are really listening to each other because we just want more of the attention to be on one of us. We each want the other to agree that maybe one of us did it better or got higher.

To Evaluate
Another Type of listening would be to evaluate. Often times people don¶t evaluate what others say to them because they rely on their pre existing beliefs about the issue at hand. To be able to evaluate something you need to be open minded and have the motivation and ability to understand the issue. People need to drop their attitudes and existing beliefs on certain issues and really listen to what other people are saying. This approach can be very affective.

Reasons for Listening Continued« Build and Maintain
This plays a big role in Interpersonal communication because listening to others is what helps build and maintain strong relationships whether it be business related or with a significant other. A lot of people out there have ruined their relationships with each other because they failed to listen and understand where the other was coming from. When people don¶t put themselves in the other¶s shoes or try to understand where the other person is coming from it can cause them to clash and not get along. It can also cause them to feel neglected or unimportant. There are a lot of people out there that have problems with each other and if only they took a step back and reevaluated what they were doing to each other they would find out that all they had to do was simply listen to what each was saying.

To Help Others

Listening plays a large role in helping others and is the single most important tool used. There are many professional fields out there some examples being doctors, lawyers, teachers, m anagers, judges, police officers, etc. that use listening to solve problems or issues that others are having. Family and friends are also other sources of help and when others listen it helps us to understand our own problems and gives us the tools to solve them.

The Challenge of Listening

Information Overload

Listening Is Not Easy Personal Concerns
A party you had last night, a recent issue with your bills, your brother crashing your car, all of these are personal issues that can distract from your listening ability by having your mind focused upon these issues, rather then the discussion at hand. Ex. You mother recently got over a serious illness, and your friend wants to chat about cards. You mind probably isn¶t entirely focused on the cards right now.

Simply put, too much information is given out in any single day, from the Internet, T.V, Cell Phones, and various other places for anyone to possibly pay attention to ALL of them. Thus people often choose to listen mindlessly rather then actually pay attention. Ex. A person is on their cell phone, while they watch the Television, it is doubtful they are really listening to the other person on the phone.

Listening Is Not Easy Continued«
Rapid Thought
³Although we¶re capable of understanding speech at rates up to 600 words per minute (Drullman & Smoorenburg, 1997; Versfeld & Dreschler, 2002) the average person speaks much more slowly- between 100 and 140 words per minute.´ This quote ties into the idea, that because we have so much space leftover when ³listening´ we tend to use that spare space for daydreaming, planning your response and so on. Ex. A family member starts to discuss a recipe for muffins, and halfway through you start to plan out your responses.

The idea that simple physical distractions, such as sickness and temperature can effect your ability to listen. Ex. Your outside, its snowing, your didn¶t pack warm enough clothes, and someone next to you wants to discuss flower arrangements.

Are you listening to me?

All Listeners Do Not Receive The Same Messages
Whatever you say can be interpreted a thousand different ways by a thousand different people. Your physiological factors, your social role, your cultural background, even your personal interests shape how you perceive what you heard. Ex. A man from a rich, high-collar background tries to discuss fine wine with a man from a blue-collar middle class background. John Stewart and Benjamin Broome both noted that, ³Even the most active, empathic listener cannot actually ³Lay aside´ the self and truly ³walk in another¶s shoes´

Poor Listening Habits
Pseudo listening: Pretending to listen, nodding of the head and eye contact, brain is in wonderland. Stage Hogging: Interested only in what they have to say, allowing others to speak only when they need to catch their breath, using the others remarks as a basis for their own upcoming babbling. Selective Listening: Responding only to certain parts of the conversation that the listener chooses to, rejecting anything else. Filling In Gaps: Taking what someone remembers, and attempting to construct an entire story around what information they have. The message they receive tends to be a distorted (not merely incomplete) version of the real message. Ex. You hear someone mention their dislike of a neighbors habits, but you miss the reasoning¶s why, so you invent your own when talking with it to your friends. Insulated Listening: Almost the Opposite of Selective Listening, utterly ignoring a number of subjects and refusing to respond utterly if these subjects are brought up. Defensive Listening: Innocent comments are treated as full out personal attacks. Ambushing: Listing carefully to a subject, only to collect information to be used at a later date to attack you personally. This tends to initiate Defensive Listening in the other person.

Components of Listening



³Paying attention-even close attentionto a message doesn¶t always guarantee that you¶ll understand what¶s being said.´ Understanding is an internal activity of the listening process in which the receiver attaches meaning to a message. Beyond being aware of the syntactic and grammatical rules of the language, understanding a message depends on several other factors: Background information Context Listener¶s mental abilities

Remembering is an internal activity of the listening process in which a message is recalled once we have understood it. Remembering is a function of several factors: The number of times the information is heard or repeated How much information there is to store in the brain Whether the information may be ³rehearsed´ or not. Early research on listening revealed that people remember only about half of what they hear immediately after hearing it. The amount varies from person to person and depend on the importance of the information being recalled, but within 8 hours, the 50% remembered drops to about 35% and within two months 50% of the originally remembered portion is forgotten, bringing what we remember to about 25% of the original message. We process an abundance of information every day from family, friends, radio, and many other sources and what we remember is a small fraction of what we hear.

A final stage in the listening process involves responding to a message-giving observable feedback to the speaker. Offering evidence that the message has been received. Study: Major difference between effective and ineffective listening was the kind of feedback offered. (nonverbal & behaviors) Communication is transactional: At the same time that we receive messages, we also send them.

Types of Listening Responses

Silent Listening
Times when the best response is to say nothing at all. Silent listening means staying attentive and nonverbally responsive without offering any verbal feedback. Silent Listening is also good when you are open to a persons ideas but your interjections wouldn¶t be appropriate.

Questioning occurs when the listener asks the speakers for additional information. Why ask questions?
‡ To clarify meaning ‡To learn about others¶ thoughts, feelings, wants ‡To encourage discovery ‡To gather facts and details ‡To trap the speaker

Not all questions are genuine requests for information. Where as sincere

questions are aimed at understanding
others, Counterfeit questions are really disguised attempts to send messages not receive them.

Paraphrasing is feedback that restates in your own words, the message you thought the speaker sent. These are three types of paraphrasing to get started.
1. 2. 3.

Changing the speakers words. Offer an example of what you think speaker is talking about. Reflect the underlying theme of the speakers remarks

Paraphrasing is a good way to get specific information from a conversation and isn't simply acting like a parrot and repeating what the other person is saying.

Empathizing is a response type of listening in which the listener attempts to identify with the speaker. Genuine empathizing ideally requires genuine identification with another person. It is possible to empathize with someone while disagreeing with them

A supporting response involves ³expressions of care, concern, affection, and interest, especially during times of stress or upset´ Types of supporting responses: Agreement: (my example), Offers to help: (my example), Praise: (my example), Reassurance: (my example), Diversion: (my example) Studies show that support can enhance the psychological, physical, and relational health of those who receive it. Both men and women differ in their approach to supporting others. In that men usually tend to offer advice or divert from the topic, while women usually tend to respond emotionally, emphasizing concern and display signs of comfort. Support must match the persons needs for it to be successful. Not everyone wants support immediately after a life-changing event has happened to them.

An analyzing response involves the listener giving an interpretation of the speakers message. This type of response is not always effective and can be seen as intrusive. Your interpretation may not always be correct which can cause confusion for the person with the problem. Analyzing their message may also cause unintended defensiveness leading them to think that you feel you are superior and more knowledgeable.

An evaluating response appraises the sender¶s thoughts or behaviors in some way. The evaluation may be favorable or unfavorable. For example: ³That¶s a good idea!´, You¶re on the right track now!´ or ³That attitude won¶t get you anywhere.´ Negative evaluations can be purely critical. Sometimes they can ³knock sense´ into the person but they usually arouse defensiveness. Evaluations have the best chance at being received when two conditions exist:

The person with the problem should have requested an evaluation from you. (Usually an uninvited evaluation triggers a negative response) Your evaluation should be genuinely constructive and not designed as a putdown. (Don¶t use evaluations as a weapon they are generally un-helpful.


When approached with another¶s problem, the most common reaction is advising.

Before offering advice make sure these four conditions are present. Be sure the other person really wants to hear your suggestions. (If you don¶t know, ask.) Consider whether the person seeking your advice is truly ready to accept it. (You can avoid the frustrations of making good suggestions even though the person already had something else in mind. Be confident that your advice is correct. (Don¶t give advice on matters you know little about, and just because something worked for you in the past doesn¶t mean it will for this person in this situation.) Be certain that the receiver won¶t blame you if the advice doesn¶t work out. (You may be offering the suggestions but it is the receivers choice to accept them.

Advice can be offered in at least three conditions.

Advice that is requested in a straightforward manner. (What do you think I should do?) An ambiguous statement may sound like a request for advice (What do you think of Jeff?), soliciting information (What would be an example of sexual harassment?), and announcement of a problem (I¶m really confused«) Advice is sometimes offered when it hasn¶t been solicited. (You look awful, you should really get some rest!)






Which Style to Use?
Start with: Silent listening, questioning, paraphrasing, empathizing, and supporting. Once you¶ve gathered the facts and show interest and concern the the speaker will be more likely to accept your advising responses. Consider these three factors: 1) The situation (match your response to the nature of the problem.) 2) When people need advice give them encouragement and support. 3) Sometimes questioning and paraphrasing can help the person find their answer. Think about the other person when deciding which to use. Be sure they are open to receiving your help. Choose a style that fits the person, some people can be extremely defensive. Think about yourself when deciding how to respond. Try to be as helpful as possible but consider your weaknesses and strengths.

Courtney Hayden Jordon Wood Chad Kenny Anthony Leyson Laura Ramirez Jacob Tonon Nick Garcia Chris Hauck