Mindful Listening is a complex process in which more attention is needed to make sure that the implied meaning is conveyed. It is diverse in perspective and fully relies on our ears and minds. Mindful listening is an active process, involving interpreting and responding to what others say, therefore effort must be exerted to the listening process.
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Effective listening is done in honest curiosity and care towards what is being said. (Stone et al, 168). From listening one derives the development of interpersonal relationships and enhancement of communication skills (Morreale and Pearson, 9).
Being attentive means that the listener has is wholly involved, keeping their minds on what is being said. Physically, the listener should maintain a posture that responses positively to the speaker, with no response, communication is monotonous and ineffective.
The choice to be mindful in listening is a personal one, demanding personal commitment of attention without diversion to another person. Human beings are naturally able to talk but the listening is a skill that many have to learn through out their lives (Morreale and Pearson 19).
Elements of mindful listening
Selecting the material to listen to is the first element of listening. It is imperative to select material to listen to rather than listening to all that is around us. The material we select to listen to, however, depends on our interests or expectations.
In mindful listening we can monitor our tendencies to attend selectively by remembering that we are more prone to distraction from loud impulses, unusual or intense. Interpretation of communication is the next step and is crucial as it is the medium in which the meaning of what is said is actually understood. Interpreting should be done to the level at which the speaker is, to exactly get what is implied. Too often we impose our meaning to what others say and derive our own meanings from what is said.
Responses are good indicators of how much listening has taken place. The feedback from a listener is an echo of communication success. They may be as subtle as nodding, eye contact or an interlude as the conversation goes on. These encourage communication since they show a lot of commitment to what is being said.
Listening is more active with responses all along the process rather than at the end. This also shows how a message communicated is perceived by the listener and the speaker may clarify on what is said. Responses also show a level of care accorded to the speaker and interest on what is being said.
The final part of listening is retention of what has been heard. Most of what is said, however, is not immediately memorable, the retention decreases with time so that we remember less. In order to achieve high retention with time, we have to avoid a lot of the details and concentrate on the basic ideas and general impressions. Selective remembrance enhances the listening competence.
Obstacles to listening
Despite our honest intentions to listen mindfully, there may be challenges that hinder the listening process. Most of the times the obstacles cannot be controlled, but it is however important to know the obstacles so that we can compensate for the hindrances.
Excessive message communicated makes it hard to listen effectively. To control this we screen much of what is said around us. We decide to listen carefully choosing to remember what is important and being more attentive to what is important. In managing complex messages, it is advisable to be taking notes or ask questions to clarify and make retention easy.
Internal obstacles on the part of the listener include preoccupation with other issues while communication is proceeding. Preoccupations take a big part of our attention depriving us the whole commitment to what someone else is saying.
At this time we are not fully present to what is being said. Another internal issue is prejudgment of what is said or the person saying it, these deny the listener the learning perspective that is got from listening, also leads to misunderstandings of the information. The listener creates a preconceived mind set which disconfirms what is meant by what is said.
Listening has more than once before considered an active process, relying on this fact, a notable hindrance to effective listening is lack of effort on the listeners’ part. Mindful listening is demanding and is hard for many people to uphold for long.
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Fatigue and other physiological conditions impede listening, therefore raising the need to put more effort into the listening process. Listening does not only involve our physiological conditions, it depends on it fully (Stone et al, 66). One may want to listen but lacks the energy required to be attentive and produce the appropriate feedback that reflects all the perspectives of mindful listening.
Non-listening is when all the cues of listening are produced by a listener but in reality no listening is taking place. It may be by pseudo listening, wherein a person seems to be listening, by all physical dimensions of a listener, but the mind is not attentive to whatever is being said.
Pseudo listening is common when we protect the speaker from the hurting reality that we are not interested in whatever is being said. It can also be an adoptive strategy to sadistic speeches which demoralizes an individual. Since listening is active, it is easy to detect pseudo listening as the listener will be giving inappropriate responses to the speaker.
Another type of non-listening is monopolizing the communication to ourselves instead of the speaker. This is common with people who consistently reroute the conversation back to themselves or to topics that only interest the listener. According to Shafir (231), it is the most infuriating of all impediments to communication.
It is notable that monopolizing of conversations will often be in expression doubts in their responses to what is being said. Monopolization reduces learning opportunity and is hurting to the person who is talking as they are perceived to be lying. As Stone et al (90) say, good listening is all about keeping the spotlight on the speaker.
Selective listening is a form of non-listening where one chooses to listen to specific parts of communication. We may choose to listen to only the parts that interest us and not consider the parts that we find boring. Communications that we find uncomfortable or that we disagree with are also easily disregarded in the listening process. These include criticism or communication shows our weaknesses or creates change in us.
Defensive listening is done when communication personally attacks a listener and the speaker is perceived not to like or respect the listener. Some however, are naturally defensive, perceiving hate, criticism and mistrust in everything said to them.
They misinterpret all innocent comments to be negatively intended and therefore they retaliate by giving negative responses towards the person speaking. Being defensive will deprive the listener of the truth from the speaker if the speaker cares and understands the defensive nature of the listener.
Specificity of listening
Listening is adaptable to the specific goals for which we listen. We can be listening for pleasure or to get information. While listening for pleasure, no retention or response is necessary, however, it is still important to be a good listener.
Mindful listening even while listening for pleasure will ensure we derive more pleasure from the conversation. Still to enjoy more we have to control interferences from noises or internal hindrances so that we maximally enjoy the communication.
In listening for information, such as listening in lectures, or when receiving guidelines or advice, retention is superiorly prioritized. This can only be achieved with upgrading our organizational, and concentration towards what is being communicated.
The first and most important step, encompassing all that is needed in listening, is to be mindful. When mindfully listening we decide to attend despite the complexity of what is being said. Obstacles and hindrances to communications are also controlled to minimal levels so that the mind is fully committed to the communication process.
Asking questions helps us seek clarification on complex issues and enhances the retention as it is easy to remember things we understand than those we don’t.
In conclusion it is important to listen because communication is the pivot of many problems and is easily solved by listening. It is imperative to develop excellent listening dexterity as these will show care and calmness to the speaker. The extent to which we are attentive and mindful of what is said is noted in the responses we give to what is communicated. Barriers to effective listening may arise and identifying these barriers is the first step towards their elimination.
Pearson, Sherwyn P. Morreale and Judy C. “Why is communication important: the centrality of the discipline.” 15 January 2008. National Communication Association. 30 april 20011 <https://www.natcom.org/>.
Shafir, Rebecca. “Mindful listening for better outcomes.” 15 February 2003.Felton Institute. 30 april 2011 <https://felton.org/>
Stone, Douglas. Bruce Patton. Sheila Heen, and Roger Fisher. Difficult Conversations. New York, NY: Harvard business publishers, 2004