Listening and responding skills are very important for every individual, no matter their age or walk of life. Especially in this era of technology and long-distance or non-personal communication, they are skills that we should work to improve, value and require. They are essential to education, career and work-related situations, social activities and interpersonal relationships and just as important to everyday life.
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Listening, Not Hearing
It's one thing to hear the sound of someone talking. It's another thing to pay attention to what they are communicating, absorb the information and respond appropriately. This is listening vs. merely hearing. Listening skills are the first step to understanding another person and where they are coming from. In a classroom setting, listening skills allow a student to grasp the concepts that the teacher is trying to convey, rather than being distracted and therefore unable to properly respond.
There are several factors that can get in the way, or detract from the ability to listen. Strong personal emotion, preconceived judgments, cultural differences and environmental distractions are some of these factors. These can be overcome by intentionally focusing on the speaker, making eye contact, and putting aside personal bias. Empathy, identifying with another's feelings, can overcome these barriers, and accurately interpreting the message in your own words is also helpful to active listening.
Responding skills are as important as listening. When responding to someone, you let them know that you have paid attention to what they said and understand what they are trying to communicate. You should always show courtesy and respect. Confidence is important to responding skills because worrying about what you're going to say or how you'll sound is detrimental to good communication. Instead, focusing on the other person will help to formulate a clear response and express it in an appropriate way.
Uses and Settings
As mentioned, good listening and responding skills are a vital part of every role and necessary in countless situations. Some careers in which they are central are teaching, counselling, administration, caregiving, customer service and clergy. Listening and responding skills are essential in romantic and marriage relationships, friendships, parent-child, service-clientele and any other relationships that involve meeting on common ground. These skills are tools for learning, bonding and resolving conflict that improve with practice.
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