Here are the three basic listening models:
1. Competitive or combative listening: This is the type of listening that is done when people want to push their own type of view or opinion rather than listen to someone else's. With this type of listening, we mostly are waiting to jump in and say something or point out flaws in what the other person is saying. We pretend that we are listening, when really we are formulating our own ideas and just waiting for the person to break so we can blurt them out. The downside is that we fail to actually take in what the other person is saying and have closed our minds, which is a barrier to good listening.
2. Passive, attentive listening: In this type of listening, we are genuinely interested in what the person is saying. At this point, we are not yet at the point of responding and being involved, but we understand the points that the speaker is trying to make. We may agree with what is being said, but we are doing so in a passive manner, rather than in a reflective one.
3. Active, reflective listening: This is the type of listening model that you want to use. In this model, you actively listen and understand what the other person is saying. Here, we listen to what the other person has to say before we try to interject what we would like to share. In this model, you restate or share back information with the speaker, showing that you are paying attention and actively involved.
Where We Want to Be
After looking at all three of the basic models of listening, you can see that the active or reflective one is the ideal situation. There are particular situations that impact your level of communication and interaction, including your situation, the facts, feelings, emotions, and your thoughts and beliefs.
When it comes to responding and reflecting back what you are hearing, you want to paraphrase rather than simply restate everything that has been said. Paraphrasing is when you sum up what the person has said, but you are not saying it verbatim. Instead, you are putting it into your own words.
If you would like to respond but are not sure what to say, you could make an account of the facts that have been said, say something about the thoughts or beliefs involved, or even about the expectations that the speaker is seeking.
In active listening, which is modeling good listening skills, you will want to provide feedback to the person speaking. By doing so, you are letting that person know you are paying attention and are interested in what she or he is saying. Here is what a short dialogue may look like when someone is actively listening and providing feedback:
Lisa: I need to find a new job; this one just isn't working anymore.
John: You don't like your job?
Lisa: No, there are just too many things that have changed.
John: So the changes are making you feel uncomfortable?
As you see, John is providing feedback, so that Lisa knows he is actively listening. Providing feedback does not mean you have to be prepared to provide advice or present any facts. You may not have anything to add to what the person is saying, such as in the conversation between Lisa and John. Just providing that feedback, however, goes a long way in showing that you care about what the person is saying.
The Three Basic Skills of Listening
Now that you have an understanding of what the three basic listening models are, it is time to learn about the three most important basic listening skills. These are things that are going to affect your listening ability and make a big difference in what you get out of and put into a conversation.
The three "As," which are attitude, attention, and adjustment, play a key role in listening skills. Once you understand how these impact your listening, they most likely will stay in your mind and keep you on your toes when it comes to the times you need them the most.
It Is All Attitude
According to the dictionary, attitude is a mental position or feeling of emotion in regard to a fact or state. This has a lot to do with how you listen to someone speaking. In order to listen well, we have to approach the situation with an open mind. It is important to realize that what the person is saying is important, even if you have prior feelings about the topic that you are bringing to the table.
If you have an attitude that everyone deserves respect when being listened to, you will be a better participant and get more out of what you are hearing. We usually can learn something from everyone. If you have an attitude that this is true, then you usually will be a better listener and provide the speaker with more respect and attention.
Have you ever tried speaking to a child that had an attitude at the time? If so, you can easily picture why attitude matters so much when we are listening. If people have a poor attitude or are feeling angry, bitter, or combative, they will not be able to be effective listeners. To be an effective listener, keep an open and relaxed attitude and you will get more out of the exchange.
Having a positive attitude is the first step in having good listening skills. If, for example, you are going into a lecture or seminar, do not enter the room assuming it is going to be boring. Enter the room with an open mind so you can actually listen to the speaker.
It only makes sense that to listen to what someone is saying you have to pay attention. But for many, that is easier said than done. Some people may have a short attention span and become easily distracted or bored, and others may have difficulty paying attention because they tend to daydream, have a hard time focusing, or even have difficulty hearing.
If you have a difficult time with paying attention, it will make effective listening that much more of a challenge. There are some things you can do in order to improve your attention skills, such as playing memory games, reading, and playing an observation game in which you look at a picture for a minute and then turn away and recall as much about the picture as you can. Even regularly doing meditation can help improve your ability to focus and pay attention.
If you are not able to adjust to where a speaker is going, you will not be able to have an open mind. This takes us back to the first of the three basic skills of listening: attitude. Having an open mind allows us to adjust to what is being said and, in the end, makes us better able to take in what we are hearing.
Putting It Together
When we apply the three basic skills of listening that we just learned about, we should find that we are right where we need to be in order to effectively listen. We should be at a point where we actively listen to and reflect on what we hear.
Barriers to Listening
Common Listening Barriers
While the following list does not encompass all the possible barriers that may exist, it does include the most common barriers you are likely to see and identify with. The more you understand the barriers to listening, the more likely you are to be successful in avoiding them.
Boredom: People find it difficult to concentrate on what is being said when they are not interested in the topic or they are simply bored.
Internal issues: People often are distracted by what is going on internally, such as having a headache, being hungry, or not feeling well. All of these issues will make it more difficult to listen.
Knowing it all: If you are listening to someone and you believe you already know what they are going to say or the answer to what they are speaking about, you are more likely to shut out what they are saying. This is another example of why it is important to approach listening with an open mind.
Being preoccupied: If you have something else on your mind, it will be more difficult to think about what is being said around you. What your mind is preoccupied with is likely to keep creeping back into your thoughts, stealing your focus. Being preoccupied and daydreaming are both issues that that will prevent effective listening.
Perception: If listeners have any bias or prejudice regarding the speaker or subject matter, it is likely that they will be focusing on their disapproval rather than what is actually being said. This is why it is important to approach listening with an open mind and relaxed attitude. Listeners' emotions play a big role in how they perceive what they are listening to, as well as the speaker.
Red flag words: There are particular words that are hot-button issues with most people. If someone is listening to someone else speak and hears particular words that the listener may be sensitive to, it could put the focus on that and become a distraction. If someone is emotional, he or she will have a more difficult time listening.
Language barriers: If there are language barriers, such as someone not being a native English-speaker or having a speech problem, it can create difficulty in how the listener takes in what is being said. Language barriers also can make it challenging for the listener to stay interested in the speaker and resist daydreaming.
Attention span issues: As previously mentioned, if someone suffers from a medical condition that prevents or makes it difficult for the person to pay attention, she or he most likely will not be able to listen very well. People with attention span challenges can work on trying to improve and also see a doctor for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) testing if they feel there may be a medical reason for their difficulties.
Addressing the Barriers
The common barriers to listening listed above can be addressed to improve your skills. Here are some tips:
· Keep an open attitude so that you are free of bias, prejudice, or emotions that may complicate your experience.
· Approach speakers by giving them the same respect that you would hope someone gives you. Adhere to the old saying that we should treat others how we would want to be treated. If you would find it offensive for people to snap their gum and look at their shoes as you are explaining something, then be sure not to engage in such activity yourself. Putting yourself in the other person's shoes is a sure way to focus on the way in which you should listen.
· Eliminate environmental distractions, including background noise. If you have the ability to reduce or eliminate the distractions, you should make the effort.
· Be patient, especially if someone is having difficulty getting his or her point across or there is a language barrier. If you allow people the time to work through what they are trying to say, they will be more successful.