Listening as a Mean of Communication
Success of communication depends not only on the ability to speak, but also on the ability to listen to the interlocutor. The loss of information in case the speaker is not guided by a friend, but only for themselves, can range from 50% to 80%. “If you're like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you're listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely” (Covey, n.d.). According to some estimates, a leader spends 80% of his/her working time listening. At the same time, studies show that no more than 10% of people are able to listen to the interlocutor. The importance and complexity of this problem led to the fact that in many countries, courses of effective listening became one of the areas of training managers.
Listening is a complex process requiring certain skills and general communicative culture. Effective communication involves both understanding and need to be understood. The manager needs to gain a foothold conscious desire to listen. Experts give the following recommendations to make the process of communication successful. There are ten "Do not’s" in the process of listening, that should be taken into account while listening to a person.
- Do not interrupt the interlocutor unnecessarily.
- Do not stress by your behavior that you are uninterested.
- Do not rush to make a decision without understanding the nature of the problem.
- Do not get distracted when your partner speaks.
- Do not let your emotions and stereotypes affect the assessment of the interlocutor and his/her message.
- Do not make hasty objections without fully hearing the speaker.
- Do not reject a new idea because it is new for you and looks doubtful or you do not agree with it.
- Do not ask too many questions at once. This suppresses the interlocutor and forces on the defensive.
- Do not give unwanted advice. First try to understand what an interlocutor wants: to reflect together, to discuss the problem or obtain specific information.
- Do not make hasty conclusions (Cohn, 2005).
Listening, as well as speaking, refers to the kinds of speech activities engaged in oral communication in all spheres of communication and situations. This means that effective communication is possible only in the case when interlocutors reach full understanding. Considering communication in interpersonal interaction, we cannot ignore the role of the listener. A person, who listens, can influence the verbal behavior of the speaker precisely because he/she is near and his/her reaction is obvious. In certain situations, a conflict may occur between the speaker and the listener. For example, the speaker uses his usual vocabulary - extra literary or specific professional language, and the listener does not understand some individual tokens, preferring to remain within the literary language. Willingness to adapt to a foreign voice experience to the same extent as the desire to implement your own, gives a foundation to talk about another embodiment of verbal behavior in interpersonal communication - "finding a common language” (Cohn, 2006).
To find a common language means to update a speaker’s skills of equal (or similar) with the skills of those, who listens, in accordance with the expectation of the latter. This can be done using a jargon, vernacular and dialect words. Focusing on a speech of the listener, the speaker resorts to various means of "communicative addressing":"Could you tell me"; "Tell me, please, just one word ...” These and other similar expressions constitute a group of nonspecific, lacking any specific information load formal means that can be helpful in solving this communication problem. Much attention is paid to the analysis of styles listening in the modern socio-psychological literature. In this case, the starting point is the assertion that listening is an active process that requires certain skills (Umiker, 1993).
Among the most important skills we should underline techniques of non-reflective, reflexive (active) and empathic listening. Non-reflexive listening is the ability to be silent, without interfering interlocutor. Externally passive behavior actually requires a lot of stress, as well as physical and psychological attention. The general rule is that the non-reflexive listening is useful when the interviewee wants to discuss pressing issues, shows such deep feelings as anger or sorrow, or just says that requires minimal response. In other words, non reflexive listening is the use of brief remarks like "Huh?", "Go on, go”, It's fun", "I understand","It's nice to hear it","Can you be more specific?" etc. or nonverbal gestures of support, such as affirmative inclination of the head (Umiker, 1993).
Reflexive (or active) listening is a feedback with the speaker used to control the accuracy of heard perception. On the contrast to the non-reflective listening, a listener more actively uses verbal form to confirm the understanding of the message. The main types of reflexive responses are asking or figuring, paraphrasing, and summarizing a reflection of feelings (Gibson, Walker, 2011).
Figuring is a request for further information to the speaker: "Can you repeat once more?", "I do not understand what you mean", "Is that all you wanted to say?" Etc. Paraphrasing is a transition of the same message to the person who speaks, but in another words. Its purpose is to verify the accuracy of what was heard. Paraphrasing can begin with the words: “As I understand you ...”, “Do you think ... “, “In other words, you think ... “. It is important to choose the main points of the message, the meaning and ideas, rather than feelings of an interlocutor. Paraphrasing allows the speaker to see that other people listen and understand him/her, and if he/she is misunderstood, make appropriate adjustments to the message. In case of the reflection of feelings, emphasis is not on the content of the message, as in the paraphrase, but on feelings, expressed by a speaker, as well as his/her emotional state. Thus, it is possible to use such phrases as “I think, what you feel ...”, “Perhaps you feel ...”, “You are somewhat upset ... “. Using this method, you should pay attention to the keywords, used by your interlocutor, reflecting his/ er feelings; follow the non-verbal behavior: facial expression, intonation, posture, gestures; imagine yourself in the place of the speaker (Gibson & Walker, 2011).
Summarization is a recapitulation of the basic ideas and feelings of the speaker. Summarizing statements help to connect fragments of conversation in a meaningful unity. Typical phrases may be the following: “Your basic ideas, as I understand, are ...”, “To sum up what you say, then ...” etc (Gibson & Walker, 2011).
Empathic listening is understanding feelings experienced by another person, and expression of understanding, the response to these feelings. To do this, reflective listening techniques are applied: clarification, paraphrasing, summarizing. Thus, empathic listening is different from a reflexive one by not used techniques and goals or intentions. The purpose of an active, reflective listening is to realize as precisely as possible the message of the speaker, the value of his/her ideas or understand the experienced feelings. The purpose of the empathic listening is to catch the emotional side of these ideas and their significance for the other person, to understand the meaning of the message with the help expressed by other person’s feelings. Empathic listening is more intimate form of communication than active listening; it is opposite to critical reflection (Gibson & Walker, 2011).
To conclude, listening, as well as speaking, refers to the kinds of speech activity engaged in oral communication in all spheres of communication and situations. This means that effective communication is possible only in the case when interlocutors reach full understanding. If a speaker ignores the reaction of the audience in the process of speaking, does not seek the necessary feedback expressed by verbal or non-verbal means, the failure of communication is inevitable. The presence of the listener is necessary to create a situation that can be called communication. Skills of an active, effective listening as well as skills of striking speaking should be developed.