Listening: Effective Interpersonal Communication

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Listening: Effective Interpersonal Communication
Mark McLean
Prof. Donny Bagwell
August 8, 2011

Listening: Effective Interpersonal Communication

Modern day business managers spend the majority of their time communicating in one form or another, either by e-mail, on conference calls, in meetings, teleconferencing or face to face. As Eccles and Nohria (1992) point out, “managers spend very little time by themselves…they spend most of their time interacting with others – both inside and outside the organization” (p. 224). Technology continues to move at light speed providing newer, faster and more convenient ways to communicate, often it has become too easy to type an e-mail, send a text or instant message, or even leave a voice mail (knowing no one will answer) often minimizing the effectiveness of face to face, interpersonal communication. As business managers continue to have tasks and responsibilities added to their already full plates, face to face communication is rapidly becoming a lost art form, and with it the skill of listening continues to be devalued.

This paper will investigate the issues resulting in poor listening and will show the value that comes when mangers truly listen to their people. The paper will also support the position that face to face, interpersonal communication is an effective way to motivate fellow employees and will offer recommendations on how to maximize time with peers through better listening skills. This paper will utilize standard APA writing methodology for style, format and referencing.

Stephen Covey (2006), talks about the Listen First principle, saying it means more than to really listen – to genuinely seek to understand another person’s point of view by hearing their thoughts, emotions, experience and point of view – but to do listen first, then offer recommendations or

solutions. He goes on to explain that when leaders don’t follow the Listen First principle they cheat themselves – and the company - out of the opportunity to gain valuable information through feedback and innovation that could lead to ground breaking ideas through collaboration and partnering. He also explains the cost of not listening is the loss of trust that is so vital to the success of businesses in today’s fast paced environment.

A common synonym for listening is to understand. To truly understand another person or group’s point of view the listener must have empathy. He must walk in their shoes to understand where they’re coming from. The listener must intellectually and emotionally identify with what the other person is saying. This becomes impossible if the listener is not focused on what is being said. Pamela Smith (2005) explains in her book that to really hear what is being said a greater sensitivity towards the speaker and a deep understanding of their department or organization is required to comfortably establish a position of empathy. Without it, the listener is left to draw their own conclusions as to where the person is coming from and risks the frustration that comes from miscommunication.

Often, upon receiving an electronic message from a superior or peer, questions arise and further clarification is needed. Because the receiver may not have the time or doesn’t want to bother his boss or risk the appearance of seeming less than competent, they may proceed with what they “understand” the direction to mean, often resulting in lost productivity and frustration by both.

Usually, a quick follow up conversation can clear up any confusion and send the receiver off in the right direction, feeling confident they understand now having the best chance to succeed.

Heinrich Pierer (2009), CEO of Siemens AG, has said “Leadership ultimately means understanding people.” Business leaders must learn and understand the “language” the people they are trying to communicate with are speaking. By learning and speaking the same language customers, peers, suppliers and...
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