Listening is the ability to comprehend verbally communicated information and providing appropriate feedback. It can be described also as the ability to pay attention to sound.

Though it seems a simple natural activity, it is a skill that has not been mastered by many. Everyone, except deaf people, hears but it is listening that makes the difference.  Hearing is the effect of vibrations in the eardrums caused by sound waves, but listening goes beyond this process.

Hearing is natural and reflexive whereas listening is a deliberate effort to comprehend sound that is heard. The stages in the listening process are: receiving (hearing), understanding, evaluating, remembering, and responding.

As we will see later, this skill is worth mastering for maximum benefits in your career.

Importance of Listening

Whether at school, work, church or a public hearing etc., listening is of a universal importance.

Whiles students need to understand the teacher’s instructions to excel in exam, employees need to comprehend working instructions in order to function effectively.

Listening is equally as important to a boss or employer as it is to an employee, a student or a teacher.

This is because verbal communicationsare used everywhere and more frequently than written ones, and it completes the chain of verbal communication.

Unlike written communication, verbal communication has no documentation for referencing; another reason why listening is of great essence.

Great listening skills will help the individual:

  • Understand and follow instructions
  • Minimize the risk of error and deviation at work or school
  • Settle quickly into the working environment
  • Pay attention and absorb information during speeches
  • Learn faster and easily during on-the-job training
  • Enjoy an improved brain absorption rate
  • Enjoy smoother and faster revision of lesson notes

How to improve upon Listening skills

You can develop better listening skills by improving on the five stages of the listening processes.

  • Hearing or Receiving: At this stage, a lot of attention is required but anything that vibrates the eardrum can cause distractions, especially when it is a very loud sound. Hearing problems such as earaches, surrounding environmental factors such as bright lights and funny commentsetc. may cause distractions. Tips: If necessary, use hearing aids, naturopathic ear drops, oil drops or warm compressors for earaches. You may see an otolaryngologist for peculiar hearing problems. Pay attention to and gaze at the speaker or sound source to avoid visual distractions. Avoid multitasking when listening.
  • Understanding (Comprehension): The stage where you try to decipher the meaning of the message or sound you have just heard. Your ability to understand depends on various factors including language, knowledge etc. Tips: Get yourself accustomed to the work-place-language(s) by learning the meaning of certain jargons, technical words, acronyms, sirens etc. Ask questions for clarity if necessaryand try not to stop the speaker in his tracks. 
  • Remembering: This is the stage where information is not only absorbed but retained also. Main points must be absorbed into the long-term memory whiles trivial onesshould be discarded. Tips: Rehearse the main points in your mind. Memory pills or memory retention courses may be helpful.
  • Evaluating: Here, you sort information and dissect them into facts and opinions, make your judgment on what is prejudice or what is exaggerated, which part was biased and what was the intent of the speaker’s message etc. Tips: Be objective in your judgment.
  • Feedback: At this stage, you are still a listener and not the speaker. Tips: Focus on addressing the most important issues. Do not complete the speaker’s statements nor deviate from the subject.
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