Listening is key to all effective communication, without the ability to listen effectively messages are easily misunderstood – communication breaks down and the sender of the message can easily become frustrated or irritated.
Listening is so important that many top employers give regular listening skills training for their employees. This is not surprising when you consider that good listening skills can lead to: better customer satisfaction, greater productivity with fewer mistakes, increased sharing of information that in turn can lead to more creative and innovative work.
See our pages: Employability Skills and Customer Service Skills for more examples.
Good listening skills also have benefits in our personal lives, including: a greater number of friends and social networks, improved self-esteem and confidence, higher grades in academic work and increased health and well-being. Studies have shown that, whereas speaking raises blood pressure, listening brings it down.
Listening is Not the Same as Hearing
Hearing refers to the sounds that you hear, whereas listening requires more than that: it requires focus. Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body. In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages. Your ability to listen effectively depends on the degree to which you perceive and understand these messages. (See our page: Listening Misconceptions for more information).
“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.”
Rachel Naomi Remen
We Spend a lot of Time Listening
Adults spend an average of 70% of their time engaged in some sort of communication, of this an average of 45% is spent listening compared to