English assignment essay on: Effective Listening and Interpersonal Relations
It is a natural human tendency to poses a desire to be heard and to express the opinion. In this regard, listening can be termed as one of the most essential skills of interpersonal relations. The word is often used for reflecting the meaning of ‘hearing’, but both the terms are not the same. Listening is an active process and is an ongoing activity which requires lifelong training. This is because of growing importance of listening in every aspect of life; it has been termed as the skill of twenty-first century. It is an essential part of our relationship with others, whether they are family members, co-workers, friends, or any other important people. It is as important as, speaking and refers to paying attention, comprehending and interpreting a message.
It has been argued by West and Turner (2010) that when listening is compared with speaking and writing, it is used three times more than speaking, and as much as four times more than writing and reading. It shows that the ability to become a good listener can be a determinant factor of interpersonal relationship (West and Turner 2010). Interpersonal skills refer to those skills which are considered to be essential in order to communicate effectively with another person or a group of people. Many a researchers have enunciated that effective listening is a core skill in a range of interpersonal relations.
Listening and Interpersonal skills: Interdependency
Active listening requires four basic human elements, ears, eyes, mind, and memory; all these four elements should work simultaneously to receive maximum input. In order to build a strong interpersonal relationship, good listening skills are perceived to be a prerequisite. It is because when people listen to others, they show care towards the people whom they are listening. Empathy or showing care is termed as an important part of building and maintaining a relationship with others. There are several ways in which listening can enhance the quality of interpersonal relationship with others. These ways have been discussed as following:
It has been suggested by Trowbridge (2009) that the quality of an active listening can be described as the way of showing respect to others. It indicates that the listener is genuinely interested in what speaker is saying and sharing. The development of a strong interpersonal relationship requires respect between the speaker and the listener, and it is quite natural that an empathetic listening validates the views and perception of a speaker.
Human being has a natural tendency to be attracted towards the people who are open to others. In this regard, listening is one of the way through which one can show openness while communicating with other person, or a group of people. During the communication, if a speaker believes that s/he is being heard with openness, it helps in increasing the level of self-expression. In addition to this, the factors of openness during conversation also assist in improving transparency between both the parties and makes communication more trustworthy. It is an ethical responsibility of a good listener to avoid prejudicing a speech, and respect the feeling and sensitivity of an idea, shard by the speaker.
Listening does not mean only physical presence while communicating with others, rather than it requires being present psychologically as well. An active listening ensures that the speaker is not being heard for the sake, and showing emotional presence with the speaker is one of the prime ways of being sensitive to the humanity of the person with whom listener is engaging. To show an overall presence with other persons make it palpable that the listener is genuinely interested in speaker’s issues of concern. This perceived sense of importance to the issues of speaker does not only mitigate the problem of a speaker, but it also helps in development of a strong interpersonal relationship.
Types of Listening
Listening can be distinguished in many categories, but broadly there are four major types of listening. On the basis of their purpose or impact, listening is categorized in following types: discriminative listening, empathic listening, appreciative listening and evaluative listening. Apart from them listening also can be categorized as active and passive listening.
Discriminative listening is mainly done to learn, to be instructed or to test theories. Discriminative listening can be took place in formal as well as in informal settings. For example when a students get instructions from the teacher on how to operate a new computer program, then it will be referred as discriminative listening. This is an example of discriminative listening in formal settings, but it also occurs informally in day to day life, like people apply discriminative listening when they listen to insurance agent or a friend describing a new restaurant. In both kinds of settings, the main purpose of discriminative listening is to make distinctions and to differentiate (Metcalfe 2011).
Evaluative listening can called as a response of person to a persuasive message. There are number of sources of persuasive messages like advertisements in newspaper or on Internet, which are designed to provoke an action. People listen to these persuasive messages, evaluate them and then decide whether to agree or disagree with them. Listeners mainly make their decision on the basis of credibility of the speaker or the content of the message, logic provided by the speaker or the level of commitment exhibited by the speaker, and the need of the listener.
When a person listen to a particular just to enjoy or to get relaxed, then he/she is participated in appreciative listening. With the experiences and exposure to new sounds, people start appreciating certain sounds like sound of music, rain, etc. and start enjoying them. When person starts listen appreciatively, he/she establish a strong emotional bond and respond positively to other works and improve their sensory enjoyment of life.
The primary goal of this empathic listening differs from the other forms of listening. All other types of listening approaches are used by the person for the fulfillment of his/her personal objective (Steinberg 2000). But empathic listening is used by the person in order to fulfill the needs of the other person. During empathic listening, person pays complete attention without making any irrelevant comments and without ignoring the sender’s message.
Apart from them listening can be of two types-active and passive. Active listening is used in formal conversation where it is important for the person to give full attention to the every detail of the sender’s message like in business meetings, whereas, passive listening is a relaxed and easy form of listening; which used by the person for his own pleasure and requirement
Effective Listening and Interpersonal Relationship
The quality of interpersonal relationship can be easily improved through active listening, rather than passive listening. Santrock and Halonen (2012) have suggested some crucial strategies for being a competent and effective listener, and these have been discussed as following:
The focus upon conversation shows that one is interested in what speaker has to say. This is a vital factor of an effective communication, as well as towards development of a good interpersonal relation. The attention can be reflected through appropriate eye contact, and leaning forward while communicating with others.
Comprehending the Central Idea:
It is an essential part of effective listening to summaries the central ideas and helps in the situations in which communication is complex and unfocused. In these circumstances, an individual’s ability to summarise the key ideas of the entire communication suggests that the listener has paid attention and understands the most central elements.
Providing an Appropriate Feedback:
No conversation is considered to be finished until and unless the listener gives some response and feedback. As an active listening helps in understanding and comprehending the central theme of a conversation and enables a listener to provide some valuable feedback. In addition to this, critical listening helps in differentiating among various parts of a speech including facts, opinion, evidences, etc. This element of communication shows that there are several alternatives to perceive and interpret to a given situation. The valuable feedback can be quite helpful in building a strong interpersonal relationship.
There are many barriers to effective listening. However, Metcalfe (2009) argues that there are basically six barriers that need to be taken into consideration and efforts must be given to avoid during listening. These six barriers and their explanation are as follows:
Yielding to distractions
People may get distracted by many things such as any unwanted movement, noise etc. during listening. Noise can be internal or external, internal noise refers to one’s own anger, fatigue, anxiety and so on that results in poor listening and talking about external noise, it comes out from outside environment such as noise of breaking glass, road traffic, building construction etc. that create barriers in effective listening. These internal and external distractions play a significant role in diverting the attentiveness of listener. The possible solutions to overcome these barriers are selection of a right place for discussion, avoiding external noise by concentrating on main discussion (Metcalfe 2009).
As argued by Metcalfe (2011), large numbers of people block out information either intentionally or unintentionally. There are many things that keep on going in the mind of a listener at the same time and as an outcome, Listener starts prioritizing the information and blocks out other information. Gradually it becomes his/her habit and impacts his/her listening capability (Champoux 2010).
When a listener blocks out information during the flow of conversation then it results in improper understanding of information and it may not be good where a decision has to be made on complete information.
One of the most significant barriers to effective listening is “selective listening”. In this barrier, a Listener pays attention to only such information that supports his/her own understanding and does not pay attention on other important information and it may lead to negative consequences. Listening can’t be effective unless full attention is given on information and it should be understood in the same way as speaker intends to deliver. Champoux (2010) argues that listeners start skipping the key details and retain only information that supports their own beliefs and sometimes they get diverted from original message that speaker wanted to give and as a result they become a victim of poor listening. In order to be an effective listener, selective listening must be avoided (Champoux 2010).
Over criticizing the Speaker
Another barrier of effective listening is over criticizing the speaker. This is situation when listener starts criticizing the speaker to the extent that he/she fails to understand the message and information which is being delivered by the speaker. If a listener is criticizing something on logical aspect of information that he/she thinks is not good which is being conveyed by the speaker then there is nothing bad in that but when it becomes his/her habit then it hugely impacts the listening capacity. It is often seen that a Listener criticizes about the appearance of the speaker, voice, facial expression and so on. This habit of over criticizing is surely not good because in this, a listener is just over criticizing the speaker and not paying attention on content which is being delivered by the speaker (Means 2009).
Means (2009) states that when a listener develops an attitude of criticizing the speaker then he/she stops listening properly or miss important points. The best way to escape from this barrier is to avoid the attention from physical appearance of the speaker and keep focusing on content that is being delivered by the speaker (Means 2009).
Most of the people especially students are expert in giving fake attention and they depict as they are paying full attention to the details which are being delivered by the speaker but in reality their mind keep on wandering on different things such as planning for shopping, watching movies and so on. Fake attention is also one of the greatest barriers of effective listening and efforts need to be given to avoid it as much as possible (West and Turner, 2010).
Sellnow (2004) argues that sometimes fake listening is good. However, we must avoid it as it may result in missing important information and sometimes a listener may have to face embarrassment. A good relationship can’t be built or maintained with fake listening. It requires active listening to build and develop the relationships (Sellnow 2004).
Avoiding difficult listening situations
According to Metcalfe (2011), one of the most common barriers to effective listening to many people is avoiding difficult listening situations. Many people have a tendency to avoid difficult listening situation which they find complicated and not interesting. Gradually, it becomes their habit to avoid everything which they think not interesting and as a result they start skipping even important information which is given by speaker. A listener must understand that the best solution to avoid the difficult listening situations is to face it and give complete attention on it (Metcalfe 2011).
There is a very close relationship between listening and interpersonal skills. In order to build and develop strong interpersonal skills, an active listening is of great importance. A good interpersonal relationship can’t be built or maintained in the absence of an effective listening because to maintain a good interpersonal skill, it is not important how others say or what others say but how much others are listening is more important. Effective listening helps in fostering relationships between people and fastens the process of problem resolution (West and Turner, 2010).
For a facilitator, active listening is of huge importance as only this is the way through which he/she can understand others message, emotion and feelings completely and work accordingly. A good relationship can only be built when there is no communication gap and the listener is paying hundred percent attentions on what is said by the speaker. An active listening is required everywhere to build a good interpersonal relations and it is of profound importance in sectors like healthcare, education and so on. For instance, in order to understand the sufferings of a patient, a doctor needs to pay attention on what patient is saying otherwise there would be a gap in understanding the problems (West and Turner, 2010).
On the basis of above arguments and analysis, it would be reasonable to say that effective communication is a core skill, for development of a strong interpersonal relation. This quality is as essential as the quality of self expression. People, who have this ability, are more likely to develop and maintain long term and valuable relationship with others. The impact of active listening can be seen at the workplace and at the home and has profound impact upon several aspects of life. Although there are some barriers of effective communication and these barriers can adversely affect the quality of listening, and subsequently the interpersonal relations, but these barriers can be overcome through continuous practices and proper training.
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