Many business people talk about clear communication from only a sender’s perspective. The receptor’s role, however, is just as important. Is that person hearing or listening?
Hearing and Listening are in fact two different things. Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear; thus, it is accidental, involuntary and effortless.
Listening, on the other hand, requires concentration so the brain can process meaning from what was communicated; thus, listening is focused, voluntary and intentional. So when you use that old saying that someone is “hard of hearing,” you probably mean they are “hard of listening.”
Not only is listening a learned skill, it is a hard skill to master. There are physical, physiological, factual and semantic distractions to deal with. When listening it could be done passively (not interrupting or giving any social cues) or active (doing something to show you are listening like nodding.), negative (answer a question before getting a question) or positive (asking questions to make sure what is communicated is understood or paraphrasing your understanding to the sender).
It is a rare occasion that a person is evaluated at work for their listening rather than their performance or doing skills? Usually, we are rewarded for accomplishing rather than listening. Most people feel like the goal is to finish the assignment no matter what, even though what was communicated could be misinterpreted. But imagine if a few extra minutes to positively and actively listen were taken how much better work could be accomplished.
Benefits of active and positive listening are that you improve your understanding of the other person. You will make fewer errors because active and positive listening involves confirming that you correctly interpret what the sender of the message said. This in turn can save time because you minimize re-work.
Team building exercises focusing on communication provide participants with a greater appreciation on the difficulties of using the listening skill and help minimize miscommunication through a collective group reflection.
If you would like to improve your team’s listening skills, contact us for a conversation.
Jason Ruby, Operations Manager, Team Building Facilitator, Terrapin Adventures