According to the Oxford Living Dictionaries, to listen is to give attention to sound or action. When listening, one is hearing what others are saying and trying to understand what it means. The act of listening involves cognitive and behavioural processes. Listening is an important component of learning. A student’s ability to actively listen has a major impact on building the communication skills needed both inside and outside of the classroom.
Active listening is an important “soft skill”, like problem-solving, leadership, and teamwork. It’s a skill that can be acquired and developed but it takes time and patience to master.
WHAT IS ACTIVE LISTENING?
Active listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. Active listening is key to all effective communication and without the ability to listen effectively, messages are easily misunderstood. As a result, communication breaks down.
Active listening means giving full attention to the speaker and trying to understand the complete message being sent. Active listeners show verbal and non-verbal signs of listening; verbal signs of active listening include questioning and remembering while non-verbal signs include smiling, head nods, posture and avoiding distractions.
Active listening also involves encouraging positive conversation. This means acknowledging the other person’s point of view and being able to repeat back what was said in your own words. If there is one communication skill you should aim to master, then active listening is it.
BENEFITS OF BEING AN ACTIVE LISTENER
- Improved communication skills.
- It helps achieve better understanding.
- It leads to less misunderstandings.
- It improves resourcefulness.
- It leads to self-reliance.
- It increases productivity.
- Reduces time wastage.
STEPS TO IMPROVE ACTIVE LISTENING
1. MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT
Give the teacher your undivided attention and acknowledge the message. Non-verbal communication “speaks” loudly. Look at the teacher directly, avoid being distracted by environmental factors, stay focused and put aside distracting thoughts. Focusing your eyes also helps improve concentration. This helps you fully understand what the speaker is saying.
2. DON’T INTERRUPT
Allow the teacher complete his or her speech before you try to speak. Avoid assuming where his or her thoughts are going as this can create a negative impact on effective communication. Allow the teacher to finish each point before asking questions and don’t interrupt with counter arguments.
3. BE OPEN MINDED
It is very important to listen to your teacher with an open mind. Listening without judging or mentally criticizing the things being said to you would help you achieve a better understanding of what the teacher is saying.
4. ASK QUESTIONS
One way to show you are listening (and make sure you hear correctly) is to ask specific questions about what is being said. This provides clarification, ensures understanding and shows that you are listening.
5. REPEAT WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS
Repeat what has been said back to the teacher in your own words. Reflect on what has been said by paraphrasing. This shows you have understood what he or she is saying. Summarize by repeating the main points of the message. This gives the speaker a chance to correct you, if necessary.
6. LISTEN FOR TOTAL MEANING
It is normal for a message to possess two components: the content of the message and the underlying feeling or attitude. Listening actively makes it easier for you to decode both components thereby giving you a clear and complete understanding of what the teacher is saying.
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