How many times have you been introduced to a person by name and then thirty seconds later, you find yourself don’t know what his or her name is?
The reason of this happens is because you have failed to be an actively listener. By italicizing the word “actively” means its different to plain old listening. In fact, there are only two states when we are communicating with another person: actively listening, and not really listening.
Active listening is the art of listening for meaning, to gain meaning from the words of another person, you need to listen carefully. Meaning is not necessarily assured even when you are actively listening, but you will at least know that you don’t understand, and can therefore ask the correct questions to gain enlightenment.
Because it is the foundation of effective communication, thus, active listening must become a habit.
Imagine if a troop not really listening to his commander’s order and attacking the wrong target, what will happen? – A failure to actively listen can certainly have dire consequences.
I noticed that many people give the appearance of listening when they are communicating with others, but in fact they fail to really hear what is being said to them. They assume that listening is such a basic sense that will happen automatically, unfortunately, this is not the case. Or, they are so used to making all the outward gestures of listening, which they are convinced it is really happening.
To pick up on tone of voice, body language and facial expressions is not difficult, all of which indicate the gist of what is being said. All it then takes is to hear a few key words, which becomes very easy to think you have understood everything you’ve been told, and to give the convincing impression that this is so by returning appropriate tone of voice, body language and facial expressions.
Active listening requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they are being told. Without this, communication is nothing but a façade, which may suffice when you are passing the time of day talking to a neighbor in the street, but is wholly inadequate in any business environment. As businesses depend on human interaction to succeed, the quality of that interaction must be of the highest caliber, and interaction means communication.
However, there are also many reasons of why people fail to listen properly. One of them might be they got distracted by an activity they are attempting whilst listening, or by other thoughts in their head they deem to be more important, or thinking about what they are going to say next, which is a common flaw in communication between parties whose opinions differ.
Finally, active listening focuses attention on the speaker, it involves the listener subjugating their own needs for a while in deference to those of the listener. And it requires concentration and a genuine willingness to hear what is being said.