The Art of Listening- By Jaspriya Gandhok

In a world dominated by voices rising over each other, wanting to be heard over others, where are the listeners? It is the irony of the times we are living in – everyone has something to say but very few who willing to listen.

We are constantly reminded of the importance of being great communicators, and how communication skills are essential for ensuring personal and professional success however, unfortunately, these ‘communication skills are restricted only to speaking clearly and confidently. Listening always gets left out. Communication is a two-way process, where speaking and listening are equally important.



So why is listening important and what can you do to be a better listener?

Listening is important not only because someone needs to listen to what is being spoken. It is important because it ensures understanding. When you listen, not merely hear, you understand what is being said. Better understanding results in effective communication. And we well know how important effective communication is.

Also, when you listen attentively, you show respect to the speaker. This leads to better relationships between people. When people feel that you are paying attention to them, they are bound to trust to more.



Being an attentive listener also helps you to formulate better responses to what is being said. Since listening helps you to understand the message better, you can respond in an appropriate manner and therefore have better control and participation in the communication process.



As you can see, being an attentive listener is as important as being a good speaker but how do become one? There are so many training programs and courses on how to be a good speaker or on public speaking, and next to none that train you to be a good listener. Here are a few tips that can help you to become a better listener:

· Cut the clutter: Remove all distractions and give your complete attention to the speaker.

· Maintain eye contact: Eye contact builds a connection between two people. It conveys interest and engagement.

· Verbal nods: Using words/sounds such as okay, hmm, uh-hum, alright, yes, etc. assure and encourage the speaker.

· Ask questions: Asking relevant questions indicates interest. When you ask questions, you get into the depth of the message and reduce the chances of miscommunication.

· Read between the lines: Learn to go beyond what is said to how it is said. Tone, body language, context, environment, etc. also carry meaning. It is important to consider all these for better understanding.



Good communication is the cornerstone of all meaningful human interactions and both speaking and listening are equally important. However, as in the beginning, we saw that the emphasis is more on getting your word across, instead of taking a moment to listen to others.



Next time, take a pause and think that if you want to be heard, should you not extend the same courtesy to others?

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