Thursday, March 20, 2008



The article focuses on listening by starting with role playing by two persons in three stages and justifies what is the best way of listening. The different types of listeners and the modes of listening are highlighted. It has come out with secrets and strategies to listening for both students as well as professionals. What is Time Lag and how to overcome creatively is mentioned. The crucial role of speaker is compared to that of a player of a musical instrument and the responsibility he has towards effective and attentive listening. The tips, tools and techniques are stated for effective and improved listening. At the end the article concluded that listening is not inborn trait but a skill that can be acquired by continuous practice and training.

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"Listening is a powerful means of communication and influences to talk well", John Marshall.

Role playing of conversation between two persons is as follows:

Stage One: Both persons begin talking continuously unmindful of the attitude and attention of the other person.
Stage Two: One person begins talking and the other person does not pay any attention towards him.
Stage Three: One person begins talking and the other person pays attention to him curiously and nods his head with reciprocal response.

Which is the correct stage for effective listening? It is very obvious that in the role playing of stage three, one person is identified as the speaker and the other person is identified as the listener as there is synchronization in effective conversation between the both. And the process is known as effective listening.

Listening is subset of any communication. Every person should know the art of listening so as to make the communication process complete and meaningful. Listening is a conscious effort while hearing is an unconscious one. Listening as a skill is vital for the development of any personality. The success rate of an individual depends on the efficiency and efficacy of listening skills one employs in his personal and professional life.

Every human being spends considerable amount of time to listening everyday. But how far the listening is qualitative is a moot point. Few people hear for a long time and at the same time they think about something else in their mind. Can we call it as a listening skill? Of course, not.


There are four kinds of listeners. The first one is a poor listener who daydreams elsewhere when the speaker is delivering something. He only opens his ears. The second one is an average listener who opens up his ears and mind and listens. This category of listeners is okay to certain extent and they remain as the huge chunk of listeners. The third one is a good listener who not only opens his ears and his mind but also maintains an eye contact with the speaker. This segment of listeners can pick up the tools and trends much faster and grow accordingly. And the fourth one is a great listener who not only opens up his ears, mind, eyes and but also his heart to receive the speaker wholeheartedly. This section of listeners is a rare breed and they create new tools and techniques in any area because of their excellence in listening. Such great listeners create, recreate, innovate and exnovate in their lives. And last but not the least is the excellent listener who not only opens his ears, mind, eyes, heart but also his soul to listen to the speaker. Such segments of listeners are the rarest of the rare breeds to be found in the world.


There are three basic listening modes such as competitive or combative listening, passive or attentive listening and active or reflective listening.

In competitive or combative listening, the listener is unmindful of the contents delivered by the speaker and is continuously on toes to open floor to offer his viewpoints. In stead of listening he waits impatiently for his opportunity to strike like a combatant and thrusts his viewpoint.

In passive or attentive listening, the listener is a cool headed. He listens to everything patiently and passively to the speaker and takes the things for granted without verifying for facts or figures. Rather the listener lacks his independent thinking and approach towards the contents.

In active or reflective listening, the listener attends actively and carefully towards the speaker, he paraphrases and summarizes what the speaker says, processes and forms his own viewpoint and reciprocates responsibly. This is the best and the most effective listening skills amongst the three modes mentioned above.


The skills need to be cultivated and inculcated right from the childhood itself. This is the right age to instill and educate amongst the children about the importance and impact of this skill. The students can improve themselves by various means such as

• Note taking is an excellent tool where the concentration on the speaker can be sustained for a longer time. It is also effective for those students who have short memory span.
• Constantly questioning the speaker as and when if there are any doubts or queries will enhance the skills.
• The students can practice the power of paraphrasing. Conversion from the language of the speaker to the listener and restating in the own words of the listener is known as paraphrasing.
• Nodding the head affirmatively as and when needed towards the speaker can also enhance this skill.
• At times the close friends in the class will divert or disturb the listener. So it is advisable to keep away from close friends in the class to maintain concentration in the class towards the speaker.
• Doing meditation or yoga daily will improve concentration powers and will become a great boon towards attentive listening.
• Students need to demonstrate passion to listen and learn. If such zeal and enthusiasm exists then it is easy to develop this skill.
• Students should shed the 'I know everything' attitude.
• Exhibiting the right postures like sitting straight, leaning forward will convey positive cues to the speaker.
• If there is respect towards the teacher and interest towards the topic then students can develop interest to listen.

If the above tips, tools and techniques are adhered to at the early stage of learning itself, the students will gain complete knowledge about the subjects which in turn will become the foundation for their further higher studies. Besides, there will be least preparation at home and the same time so saved can be utilized for other creative pursuits. Effective listening saves lot of time and energy and furthers for all-round development of the personality.


Employees spend most of the day at the work place itself. They spend considerable degree of their time in communication and in interpersonal relations. Listening plays a crucial role in their business communication. Failure to do so will result in communication gap, misunderstandings and professional setbacks. People tend to develop ill feelings due to the barriers and filters in communication. Barriers are physical and physiological by nature and are external. Where as the filters is internal and is related to emotions and psychological. If some one says, 'I don't like him' then it becomes psychological filter. However it is easier to remove barriers than filters.


A speaker normally delivers approx. 150 words per minute in average whereas the listener has the capacity for receiving 500 words per minute. Basically the human mind is very powerful device and even if we work 24 hours a day still we don't utilize the full human potential. Man can reach to stars in fraction of seconds mentally although he is physically in the same place. This is an indication the fastness and the potentiality of human mind. The gap between the speaking rate of the speaker and the thinking speed of the listener is known as 'Time Lag'. In this context, it is worthwhile to quote, "We were given two ears but only one mouth, because listening is twice as hard as talking".

How to fill this critical gap? The listener should keep his concentration towards the speaker. He should also mentally summarize the contents. He can tactfully engage this gap to question the speaker related to the concerned topic. He should stop suspending his judgment. He should stick to attending skills and paraphrase what the speaker delivers.


The role of the speaker is; in fact, more important than that of the listener as it is he who influences the listener to pay attention towards the content. Speaker should arouse interest in the subject and should make it lively and lovely to catch the attention of the listener. He can adopt tools and techniques like posing open ended questions like 'Tell me what you understood from my lecture?' rather than close ended questions like 'Is it clear?’ 'Did you understand?’ 'Is it alright?' etc., By shooting the open ended questions the listener will be forced to pay more attention towards the speaker. And the speaker will also get accurate feedback from the listener.

If the listener is compared with a musical instrument then the speaker can be compared with the player of the instrument. As it is quite obvious that everything depends on the player of the instrument whether to produce joyful or sorrow music. Similarly if the speaker is powerful and the speech is mesmerizing then the listener can be held for a longer time.

The speaker can adopt various tools like posing positive questions frequently during the listening process such as 'Am I right?’ 'Am I clear?’ 'Is it alright?' and suddenly changing his tack to negative questions like 'Am I wrong?' and 'Am I not clear?' will test the pulse of the listeners. Usually what is expected in the given close-ended question is 'yes' and when the listener says 'no' to the negative questions then it is clear that the listeners are attentive in their approach. The speaker can also apply such tricks and tools related to role playing to make the listening process interesting and entertaining.


• Avoid preconceived notions about the speaker and about the topic.
• Don't jump into conclusions.
• Maintain eye contact with the speaker.
• Lean forward and exhibit curiosity by projecting positive body language.
• Allow the speaker to complete his speech, fully process the same in your mind coolly and respond accordingly.
• Do focus on contents not on delivery.
• Be empathetic and non-judgmental.
• Be motivated to listen and be prepared to listen.
• Be objective and specific and clear.
• Utilize feedback up to the hilt.
• Be alert to all cues.
• Don't let your mind drift.
• Ask relevant questions and encourage the speaker to deliver effectively.
• Summarize topic so as to minimize the speaking time and thinking speed gap.
• Don't get preoccupied with other activities or worries.


You can't clap with one hand. You need to have two hands to clap so as to produce the desired effects. Listening becomes effective and efficient when there is cooperation and coordination between the speaker and the listener. Conscious efforts are essential from both the speaker and the listener to make listening pleasant and memorable. All efforts must be put to avoid barriers and filters between the speaker and the listener. Adopting right tools and techniques on the part of the speaker and the listener will lead to productive and fruitful listening.


You can take the horse up to the pond but you can't force to drink. You can't thrust upon the listener. The listener should have passion to listen, respect towards the speaker, interest towards the topic so as to make the listening process as interesting, encouraging and enlightening one. Listening skill is not inborn, but can be inculcated and cultivated by regular practice and training.


1 comment:

POLYMATHEA Training and Coaching Solutions said...

Could u pls provide a link back for this article.
i would be privileged to include this very well written article , back to my blog.