Listening is such a routine activity that most people do not even realize that they are poor listeners, and are, therefore, in need of developing their listening skills. Others may feel that listening is a very difficult task, perhaps, next to impossible to achieve. But the truth is that good listening habits can be cultivated, and with practice, much can be achieved.
Understanding the complex process of listening, itself, may help people become good listeners. Listening involves the following inter-related steps in sequential order:
1. Receiving: This is a kind of physiological process. The sounds impinge on the listener‘s ear. It is only when he takes these in that he can go further in the process of getting at the meaning.
2. Attending: The listener has to focus his attention on the ‘message’ to the exclusion of all other sounds that may be present in the immediate surroundings.
3. Interpreting: The ‘sounds’ have to be interpreted, that is, the listener tries to understand the message that is being put across against the background of his own values, beliefs, ideas, expectations, needs, experience and background — and, of course, taking into account the speaker‘s viewpoint.
4. Remembering: This involves storing the ‘message’ for future reference.
5. Evaluating: The listener makes a critical analysis of the information received, judging whether the ‘message’ makes sense while separating fact from opinion.
6. Responding: Then the listener gives a verbal or nonverbal response, and takes action accordingly.
Having considered the above six steps, it becomes clear that effective listening is an active process which requires full concentration, attention, and conscientious / conscious effort.
It is possible for every one of us to improve our listening skills. However, becoming a good listener is not a simple matter, as effective listening can be obstructed by a number of personal or environmental influences. The person should be aware of, and, more importantly, alert to potential distractions. Often, bad listening behaviors are habitual.