Characteristics of good listening skills

Written by james withers
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Characteristics of good listening skills
("365: 58 - 27.02.09", by Foxtongue)

Listening is a skill that should not be underrated. The ability to hear what one is being told is what makes listening possible. However, good listening requires one to carefully consider what one is hearing (see Reference 1).


Communication without attentiveness is like a buffet without food. Failure to provide a speaker with eye contact can inspire uneasiness and distrust, depriving a speaker of the satisfaction of knowing that his message is being received. Roaming eyes are often representative of feelings of distraction. Thus, an attentive speaker is sure to concentrate as he listens to a speaker, overcoming distractions and even going so far as to forgive a speaker's poor communication skills. Simply by paying attention, a listener can build an unspoken rapport with a speaker.


Listening not only involves silence, but it also involves evaluation. Most speakers want to gather input from their listeners rather than simply force their listeners to listen to a lengthy monologue. Whether a speaker is delivering a presentation in front of an audience or addressing a single listener, the speaker is likely to invite listeners to ask questions or to otherwise respond to what he is saying. One way to demonstrate strong listening skills is to paraphrase, or to loosely summarise, what he has already said. For example, a good listener might say, "So, if I am hearing you correctly, you have just said that you believe that a portion of telecommunication energy costs should be subsidised via government grants?" Such a question simultaneously urges a speaker to clarify his comments as well as permitting him to know that these comments have been heard.


Speaking is an activity that often involves emotion. If a speaker feels criticised by a listener, he is likely to express a degree of inhibition as he speaks. The job of a good listener is to permit speakers to become slightly uninhibited during the communication process. By identifying with a speaker, a listener is able to empathise with him. Such a listening skill requires flexibility because not all speakers are easy for a listener to identify with. However, by expressing empathy while listening to a speaker, a listener encourages a speaker to be more candid as he speaks.


Listeners should allow speakers to express themselves completely before attempting to interject comments or questions regarding what the speaker is saying. Most speakers do not enjoy being interrupted just so that listeners can try to finish their thoughts. Unless you are engaged in a debate, interrupting a speaker is likely to be interpreted as a sign of rudeness. Thus, good listening requires patience and a willingness to release control of a conversation, assigning as much value to a speaker's idea as you may desire to assign to your own ideas.


Listening is a neglected art form, largely because we are often ready to take offence to the things that we say to each other. Thus, being a good listener requires one to refrain from judging a speaker. A listener should be more willing to pay attention to a speaker's content than his style. For example, if the speaker makes use of complicated jargon, a listener should make a generous effort to understand the speaker despite of the jargon. If necessary, the listener should also seek an opportunity to ask questions for clarification purposes, rather than to assume a posture of false understanding.

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