Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Art of Listening

"We were given two ears but only one mouth, since listening is twice as hard as talking."Did you know that when we hear with our ears; it doesn’t mean that we are listening? The ability and need to communicate touches every area of our lives. Everything we do in life requires communication with others. Hearing is the first stage of listening.  Hearing occurs when our ears pick up sound waves which are then transported to our brain.  This stage is our sense of hearing. So what then is listening?

Listening is a communication process. In order for this to be successful it involves an active process. This active process involves the conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, understanding the complete message being sent. Body gestures such as, nodding, making full eye contact, defer judgements and responding appropriately can be employed in the active process of communication.

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A group of students at NCU share and listen to points made by their colleagues - fie

We all need to feel that we are being heard and understood. It is a basic human need that is as primary as having enough water, food or air to survive. Here are some considerations to remember when listening actively; always be aware of your personal filters and triggers. Each of us is a product of our upbringing, culture, life experiences and things that makes us unique human beings. This uniqueness can sometimes become an obstacle in being an effective listener. As you listen, try to remain open to what you are hearing and withhold evaluation or judgment. Become aware of what your triggers are in the communication process and what shuts your listening down.

Observe your own and other people's listening habits. Ask yourself what it feels like when someone really listens to you and when they don't. Make a list of any behaviour that you find irritating in the listening habits of other people and then examine your own listening behaviour. See if you just might exhibit any of the behaviours you find annoying. Create a checklist of habits you want to change. Also, acknowledge yourself for listening habits you have that do work for you. This type of thorough self-exploration is another way to learn about your filters, barriers and triggers as a listener. Once you identify and reduce what gets in the way of your ability to hear, you'll increase your effectiveness as a listener.

At Northern Caribbean University the Department of English and Modern Languages offers a slew of communication courses which assists the in development of their students. The Department of Communications also fosters the growth of its students through various communication channels.

Like most things in life, improving your listening skills is a matter of practice. Listening well is a two-way street, and to be effective communicators, we must all listen well to each other. Think about the last time you made a friend feel better by just listening. Practice makes perfectListening is an art; when done well it delivers tremendous benefits.

Mikki Clarke