Updated: Aug 6, 2021
Growing up, when our parents spoke to us, sometimes they would say, “Did you hear me?” We would hap hazardously say, “Yes.” Truthfully, we may have heard what our parents were saying, but were we listening? More often than not, we were just hearing and not listening. Also, many of us have said at one time or another, “Let me take a minute to process this or that.” What we mean by that is we need a minute to digest the information we were hearing. Perhaps we heard something, but didn’t get the full understanding of what was being said. We need to process what was said.
When thinking of the listening process, there are a few necessary steps to successfully complete the process. In fact, the basic principles of the listening process should happen step by step to gain a full understanding of the process.
The following are the steps that should be taken for the process of gaining good listening skills:
The first thing you have to do is hear what is being said and then listen to the information that is being communicated whether it’s verbal or written. It’s important to understand that hearing and listening are two different things. So often, we have a discussion we say “Did you hear me?” However, it is best to say, “Are you listening to me?” Hearing is on the surface. It’s the basics of what our ears are designed to do, but listening goes below the surface and you have to concentrate on what the person is saying to be deemed a good listener.
The second thing you have to do is understand what is being said. You can gain an understanding by looking at the situation and apply it to some part of your life by comparing the situation to one that may have occurred in your own life or perhaps in the life of someone else. That is how you relate to what is being said. Next, after gaining an understanding you take the information into your mind and store it; this is digesting what is being taken into your mind. The last thing you have to do to effectively process is to recall or retrieve the information that has been communicated and stored.
If you are having challenges with the listening process, one of the things you can do is called a “mirroring exercise.” That is when something is communicated to you and you repeat what was communicated. For example, when something is stated to you, you can say to the person you are speaking with, “So, do I understand you to say…” or “Let me repeat back to you what you said.” If there is a misunderstanding in communication, you can try the exercise again. Keep trying until you have completely translated what was communicated accurately. This is a very effective way to gain good listening skills. As with many things in life, processing can sometimes take time (and effort) to do. The physical effort to effectively listen can be extremely challenging. It means you have to pay close attention to what you are doing. The body language a person displays can be an indication of whether or not that person is listening. Not only do your ears and brain have to be alert, but so do your eyes, mouth, and shoulders. Your eyes have to be focused on the person speaking, your mouth has to be quiet and your shoulders should be facing the person you are listening to that way it is understood that you are actively listening.
Even though it may take some time, it is better to process information correctly to avoid miscommunication. The need to process effectively goes both ways. Not only should you process information correctly, you want others to process information that you have communicated correctly. Essentially, taking time to process is necessary in making sure everyone is on the same page.
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Antoinette Shar’ron Johnson
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