Welcome to your second customer service lecture. This week we’ll discuss listening, an often simplified concept. Many people think listening is easy—as long as you hear something you’re listening to it, but in truth, listening effectively is a demanding task. To listen effectively, you must apply skill and determination. Luckily, as with any skill, effective listening can be learned. We’ll begin this lecture by going over the difference between hearing and truly listening.
Hearing is a relatively simple physiological process. It involves the production of sound, which travels into the ear canal. That sound is then transmitted to the brain to be interpreted. However, because other psychological processes and outside distractions occur simultaneously, if an individual doesn’t focus his or her attention on the message, it becomes lost or distorted.
The first step of actually listening to a message is hearing it, but the steps that follow are more complex. In active listening, three steps occur after hearing.
The second step, or first step that comes after hearing, is called attending. This is the process of determining what sensory input is important and needs attention. This means tuning out the dog barking outside, the conversation occurring next to you, and any other sounds that do not constitute the message being conveyed by the speaker. This step also involves putting aside internal distractions such as worrying about what you’ll have for dinner tonight or planning what to say next. Certainly you’ve been subjected to some of these distractions? You’ve heard my voice just now, but where you listening or were you distracted? Practice listening.
The next step involves comprehending and assigning meaning to the words you hear. This involves memory and recognition. This step is the reason why, no matter how carefully you listen, you will not understand something said in a language you do not know. You cannot recognize words you have no memory of or words you have never learned before.
Responding is the fourth and final step of active listening. This involves choosing the correct words, conveying your meaning accurately, and ensuring that your body language is appropriate and does not convey frustration or hostility. This step is crucial because it will show your customer whether or not you understood what he or she said.
Obstacles to good listening come in many forms. Like I mentioned, active listening does not come easy. It’s something we have to work for. Studies indicate that Americans typically have an efficiency rate of 25% as listeners. This means that of everything that is heard, only 25% is really listened to and absorbed; 75% of the message is lost. Now that’s a striking figure!
Let’s identify some internal obstacles to efficient listening because if you can identify the challenges, it will be easier to overcome them.
Personal characteristics often interfere with an individual’s ability to properly understand—or actively listen to—a client. One of these obstacles is biases. Biases are defined by your text as “beliefs or opinions that a person has about an individual or group.” These beliefs are often unreasonable and based on incorrect assumptions. It is important to understand that we can never fully rid ourselves of biases, but we must instead strive to become aware of biases and work to control them.
Another obstacle to effective listening is psychological distracters. Psychological distracters are personal issues that typically result in feelings of negativity and preoccupation. An example of a psychological distracter would be worrying about bills, thinking about an argument you had with your partner, or feeling concern for an elderly relative who is in the hospital. Although preventing personal problems from interfering with your work performance is not an easy thing to do, you must strive to...
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