Activity #1: Attentive Listening
Instructions: Find a partner and perform the following exercise:
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- Show as little interest as possible (avoiding eye contact, yawning, interrupting, folding arms), as your partner answers these questions:
- What has recently caused a conflict at work for your or someone you know?
- What was the conflict about?
- Who was involved?
- What was the outcome?
- Repeat the interview, this time practicing attentive listening (focused, caring, eye contact, forward lean, paraphrasing, etc.)
- Switch roles and repeat the two parts of the interview process.
- Respond to the following questions including your partner’s responses:
- What was it like to be listened to half-heartedly?
On my part, being listened to half-heartedly was not only disappointing but it also made me question my ability to express myself. I got the impression that I was not interesting and that the information that I was presenting was of no value to the listener. I was therefore in a rush to get the interview over with since I did not wish to prolong the agony that I felt as a result of the apparent disinterest from my partner. During this experience, my self esteem was greatly lowered and my anxiety increased (Weiten et. al 136). On his part, my partner also expressed his lack of motivation to talk as a result of my half-hearted listening and the lack of positive feedback from me as he played the part of the speaker. He pointed out that my lack of enthusiasm led to him hastening his speech since he lacked the motivation to carry on.
What were the signs of inattentive listening?
The signs of inattentive listening included a lack of eye contact from my partner while I answered the questions. His constant drumming of his fingers on the sides of the chair was also a strong indication of inattentiveness. By keeping his arms closed, my partner exuded a lack of openness which made me feel that he was biased and judging my message. In addition to this, my partner kept stealing glances at his watch and yawned regularly which indicated boredom and impatience. Speaking out of turn and interrupting the speaker was also a sure sign of lack of attentive listening by both my partner and me. In addition to this, I did not offer ask any follow-up questions regarding the issues that my partner raised.
What difference did attentive listening make in how you felt and what you said?
By engaging in active listening, I was able to prevent myself from drifting therefore gaining a better understanding of what my partner was saying. This better understanding translated to my being interested in the message therefore encouraging him to elaborate even further on the questions. Attentive listening also resulted in my offering of verbal cues such as paraphrasing and non verbal cues such as nodding my head. This led to a more engaging conversation as my partner became more enthusiastic and interesting to listen to.
When I was the one doing the talking, attentive listening resulted in my ability to better frame my thoughts since my partner did not interrupt me as I was speaking. This resulted in my making of a more coherent and informed message which I believe was more informative and engaging to my listener. Owing to the positive feedback that I was getting, I felt less anxious and my self esteem was greatly heightened.
What cues (tone, body language, choice of words) enabled you to speak differently the second time?
In the second round, my partner engaged in active listening which greatly bolstered my speaking. Rees and Porter contend that by giving positive verbal and non-verbal cues, a speaker receives feedback which encourages him to continue giving his message (64). My partner adopted an open posture by leaning forward and keeping his arms open in the second time. This open stance demonstrated a willingness to accept my message with an unbiased mind and it was a significant difference from the judgmental cross armed posture exhibited earlier. As a result of his nodding and constant eye contact, I could tell when my listener needed me to elaborate further on a point. From his questioning tone when he paraphrased my statements, I was able to be more informative and keep the talk interesting for my partner.
Were there any misunderstandings triggered by language/inattentive listening?
There were numerous misunderstandings that arose as a result of language and inattentive listening. My partner assumed that I had understood all the issues that he had discussed as a result of my not asking any questions. My constant yawning made him answer the questions in a summarized manner since he assumed that I was bored. My partner also failed to get the core issues that I raised in my arguments since he was preoccupied looking at his watch and answering his phone.
Activity #2: Analyzing Your Own Listening Effectiveness
Instructions: Reflect on your own listening ability and respond thoroughly to the following 10 questions.
- Listening is difficult for me when
The listening process is difficult for me when I have other thoughts running through my mind or when I lack an interest in the subject being discussed and do not hold the speaker in high regard. Listening is also difficult to me when there are physical distractions such as noise or the environment in which the communication process is taking place is not conducive e.g. when it is too cold or too sunny leading to physical discomfort (Downs 46).
- Listening can also be difficult for me when I’m feeling biased towards the speaker which invariably influences the way in which I receive a speaker’s message. I also tend to have difficulties listening when I am feeling exhausted and in need of rest.
- I tune out the message when they are on topics that do not interest me or when I have a negative image of the speaker owing to my biases or stereotypes. This leads to my having of preconceived ideas about the message that a person is about to communicate or in worse cases, writing it off as useless before I even hear it.
- Someone I consider to be an excellent listener is my father because no he always lets me get my point through without interruptions even when he is a bigger authority on the topic I am talking about. In addition to this, his verbal and non verbal cues always encourage me to keep talking since I am certain that he is giving me his complete attention.
- Describe a recent situation where you exhibited ineffective listening.
In the recent past, I visited a doctor and engaged him in a talk about healthy lifestyles and exercising. Owing to his experiences and his professional knowledge on the subject, he was an outright authority on the topic and had a lot of useful information to share with me. However, I exhibited ineffective listening as a result of my numerous questions and comments which resulted in me constantly interrupting the doctor while he was making his points. This leads to a disruption of the flow of ideas as well as a lack of understanding on my part as in most cases I cut the speaker short before getting the point in its entirety. Downs points out that this poor listening habit can only be overcome by a listener being patient and listening to what is being said with an open mind (42). A good listener should only talk when the speaker has completed delivering his message
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- Describe a time when poor listening resulted in a problem with your class work.
Success in my class work depends on my ability to listen to what is being said by my teachers, analyze and interpret the received information and finally commit the message to memory for future retrieval (Clearly 6). Failure to involve myself in any of this listening process stages can lead to a problem with my class work. In the past month, I encountered a problem as a result of my failure to listen to the instructions that my teacher was issuing concerning an upcoming practical assignment. This problem resulted from my using my cell phone to send text messages while the instructions were being issued. This led to my misinformation and the subsequent failure to achieve the intended goals in the assignment.
- Describe an incident when not listening to a friend/family member led to trouble.
During last year’s thanks giving holiday at my home, I failed to listen to my parent’s instructions concerning how to deal with my father’s brother. Due to my failure to listen to what I had been told, I ended up ruining the celebrations for my family since I made my uncle furious by asking him about his divorce, a topic that my parents had explicitly instructed me not to breech.
- Describe a time when someone did not listen to you well and how you handled it.
During our group discussions, I was given the opportunity to illustrate a concept to my group members. A few minutes into my illustration, I noticed that my group members were not paying any attention to my message. One member was handling his cell phone while another was gazing into space. In reaction to this, I speeded up my speech skipping most of the important concepts since I was discouraged by their lack of attention. This led to a loss by both my group and I since they failed to learn new concepts through me and I failed to communicate effectively.
- Describe how it feels when someone is not listening to you?
When I am talking and no one is listening to what I am saying, my self-esteem is greatly lowered as I feel that I am not being afforded the respect that I deserve. I feel that my opinion is not worthy which results in a self-defeating attitude and a negative impact on my ego. Weiten et. al. suggests that low esteem which may result from not being listened too may result in increased anxiety levels which will lead to poor communication (136).
- What kinds of verbal and nonverbal feedback do you provide to show others you are listening?
By asking a person to repeat what they have said, I give the speaker a verbal reassurance that I am listening. I also engage in echoing what the speaker has said which not only demonstrates my attentiveness but also gives the speaker a chance to correct any misconceptions I might have. Some of my non-verbal cues include nodding in agreement and leaning forward so as to demonstrate my eagerness at a particular topic or statement. In addition to this, I look at the speaker straight in the eye which demonstrates my attentiveness to his words.
Cleary, S. “The Communication Handbook: A Student Guide to Effective Communication.” Juta and Company Ltd, 2004. Print.
Downs, L. “Listening Skills Training.” American Society for Training and Development. 2008. Print.
Weiten, Wilson et. al. “Psychology Applied to Modern Life: Adjustment in the 21st Century.” Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.