*Ear Drum Roll* - People Hearing Without Listening?

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen Richards Covey.

Listening and responding are two important aspects of effective communication.  Listening should be an active process. Part of active listening is understanding what is being said and formulating appropriate responses to it.  These responses are a mix of verbal and non-verbal cues. Smiling, posture, eye contact, and mirroring are some of the non-verbal cues that will be exhibited as a means of response. Verbal cues include responding through questions, comments, answers and remembering the content of the conversation.

In every exchange, communication is a two-way street. It requires an active speaker and an active listener. An active speaker should express clearly, and an active listener should make it a point to listen and contribute productively to the discussion.

The successful implementation of any idea begins with articulate exchange of ideas and information between two parties (the speaker and the listener). When does a disruption in execution of a project or a plan of action occur? When there are gaps in communication. These occur due to several reasons such as:

1. EGO
Ego can act as the biggest barrier and create gaps in communication. An egotistical person will always find a chance to turn every conversation into an argument. Why do certain individuals do this? They choose to focus on their point of view and perceive situations and people only from a certain perspective, which is often favourable to their cause or based on their bias.

2. Multi-tasking
The first rule to effective listening is being actively busy with the conversational speaker.

While receiving and decoding information, there is a possibility of maximum distraction. It can take place as the listener may be suffering through physical (too many sources of sound around), physiological (a condition of tinnitus) or psychological noise (decoding of the message depends on the mental framework of the receiver at that moment in time).

Imagine yourself at the receiving stage where you are trying to absorb what the other person is saying whilst you are also focussing on typing out an email reply to a client, or are distracted by the thoughts in your head, or trying to figure an apt reply to the message being communicated to you. This results in you losing out on vital information that is being communicated to you by the speaker.

Well, ‘multitasking while listening and listening while multitasking’ is an integral part of your professional and personal space, thanks to our fast-paced lifestyle. How can you master the skill of listening whilst attending to your work too?

‘Timeout’ and focus on the ‘now’. Take a few minutes off your work and focus only on what the speaker has to say. Train your mind to be in the present and concentrate on every word that is being said to you. This will subconsciously compel you to work on the task at hand and finish it within the set deadline.

3. Insecurity
Insecurities can get the better of you and impact the process of listening and decoding the message. A troubled state of mind due to anxiety, lack of confidence, or a shy and timid nature can block information inflow. This keeps you away from being open to newer possibilities and opportunities.

Insecurities are a consequence of fostering negative feelings. These feelings could be a result of low self-esteem.  This can have a disastrous impact on your listening as you might end up being defensive or sensitive on the slightest remark about your performance. While it could be constructive and beneficial for your own development.

Taking the focus on the ‘now’ as a step further, consciously emphasize on the positive aspects of the situation. Say for example, you have received constructive feedback on an ongoing project. Consider it to be strictly professional and for your own betterment. Focus on improving your working style to contribute fruitfully to the said project.

Do not mull over the feedback for too long but act on it. You will realise that over a period you are becoming receptive (listening, receiving and decoding) to feedback (positive and negative) that comes your way.

Listening if mastered meticulously, is a wonderful skill that has the potential to let you unleash and use your capacity to the best possible extent to explore numerous openings on the career front.

As a leader applying effective listening skills allows you to observe the other person’s body posture, and mannerisms. This helps a leader to truly comprehend multiple aspects to a given scenario and results in problem-solving at various levels internally in the organization.

So listen hard and listen well!