"We were given two ears but only one mouth, because listening is twice as hard as talking."
Brief Theory of Communication
Expressing our wants, feelings, thoughts and opinions clearly and effectively is only half of the communication process needed for interpersonal effectiveness. The other half is listening and understanding what others communicate to us. When a person decides to communicate with another person, he/she does so to fulfill a need. The person wants something, feels discomfort, and/or has feelings or thoughts about something. In deciding to communicate, the person selects the method or code which he/she believes will effectively deliver the message to the other person. The code used to send the message can be either verbal or nonverbal. When the other person receives the coded message, they go through the process of decoding or interpreting it into understanding and meaning. Effective communication exists between two people when the receiver interprets and understands the sender’s message in the same way the sender intended it.
Sources of Difficulty by the Speaker
Voice volume too low to be heard.
Making the message too complex, either by including too many unnecessary details or too many issues.
Getting lost, forgetting your point or the purpose of the interaction.
Body language or nonverbal elements contradicting or interfering with the verbal message, such as smiling when anger or hurt is being expressed.
Paying too much attention to how the other person is taking the message, or how the person might react.
Using a very unique code or unconventional method for delivering the message.
Sources of Difficulty by the Listener
Being preoccupied and not listening.
Being so interested in what you have to say that you listen mainly to find an opening to get the floor.
Formulating and listening to your own rebuttal to what the speaker is saying.
Listening to your own personal beliefs about what is being said.
Evaluating and making judgments about the speaker or the message.
Not asking for clarification when you know that you do not understand.
The Three Basic Listening Modes
1. Competitive or Combative Listening happens when we are more interested in promoting our own point of view than in understanding or exploring someone else’s view. We either listen for openings to take the floor, or for flaws or weak points we can attack. As we pretend to pay attention we are impatiently waiting for an opening, or internally formulating our rebuttal and planning our devastating comeback that will destroy their argument and make us the victor.
2. In Passive or Attentive Listening we are genuinely interested in hearing and understanding the other person’s point of view. We are attentive and passively listen. We assume that we heard and understand correctly. but stay passive and do not verify it.
3. Active or Reflective Listening is the single most useful and important listening skill. In active listening we are also genuinely interested in understanding what the other person is thinking, feeling, wanting or what the message means, and we are active in checking out our understanding before we respond with our own new message. We restate or paraphrase our understanding of their message and reflect it back to the sender for verification. This verification or feedback process is what distinguishes active listening and makes it effective.