LISTENING AND INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION
This is an essay that tackles the importance and role of the listening process in interpersonal communication. More specifically, the paper includes a brief definition of interpersonal communication and listening, the facets of listening, a discussion of the extended model of the listening process, and lastly, a discussion of the benefits of effective listening in the organisational and social levels.
Everyday, people talk with each other due to a wide range of reasons, such as to ask one’s parents for allowance, to ask a friend about what he or she did last weekend, to ask a boss or a colleague about work, or even to ask a stranger for directions. Such interpersonal interactions may have happened to us so frequently that we may have forgotten to consider the various factors that affect its efficiency. One such component of interpersonal communication that people may have already taken for granted is the process of listening.
It is therefore essential to be aware of the fact that listening is an active process wherein the person who listens decides to carefully regard the one who speaks. Moreover, this process also involves focus on the speaker’s verbal and nonverbal codes, and accordingly also entails the listeners’ role to make use of the proper verbal and nonverbal actions of listening.
Interpersonal Communication: A Background
According to (1993), interpersonal communication is the process wherein meaning and information is conveyed between individuals (). This process has been so frequently occurring in different parts of society today that people fail to consider its importance and role in the effective formation of relationships and efficient corporate operations.
In connection to the significance of interpersonal communication in the social and corporate levels, one should also bear in mind the essential aspects that contribute to its effective execution. These include verbal and nonverbal communication, communication and systems, perception, and most importantly, the listening process.
There have been a number of studies with regard to listening, in the context of interpersonal communication. One such research has been conducted by (1991), who defines listening as “the complex, learned human process of sensing, interpreting, evaluating, storing and responding to oral messages (as cited in and 2003, ). However, in the interpersonal communication context, there are various factors that should be considered with regard to listening, such as the verbal and nonverbal components of interaction.
With such considerations, (1997) states that the ideal definition of listening entails a person’s ability to acquire, manage, and maintain data conveyed to him or her (as cited in and 2003, ). In addition to this, and (1999) also adds that in listening, the individuals involved in interpersonal interaction should have the capacity to capture and comprehend the messages that they convey to each other, whether verbal or nonverbal, clear of ambiguous (as cited in and 2003, ).
Therefore, listening is concisely defined as the “process whereby one person pays careful, overt, and covert attention to, and attempts to assimilate, understand, and retain, the verbal and nonverbal signals being emitted by another ( and 2003, ).”
Facets of Listening
The process of listening also involves three elements vital to such procedure, and these are the speaker, the listener, the message, and the environment. Evidently, the speaker is the individual who conveys the message through both verbal and nonverbal codes. More specifically, verbal codes include words that comprise sentences, while nonverbal messages include facial and bodily expressions, paralanguage or vocal cues, proxemics or space, and the like.
Next, the listener is the person who receives the message conveyed by the speaker. These individuals may be divided into people-oriented listeners, or individuals whose foremost concern are others’ feelings and needs; task-oriented listeners whose primary interest is to get the business done; content-oriented listeners who do not merely obtain information but actually examines the message and carefully analyses it; and the time-oriented listeners who give emphasis on completion of tasks within set time frames ( and 2003, ).
Furthermore, the message is evidently the pieces of information that is passed on from the speaker to the listener. To be effective, the speaker should make sure that the message to be passed on should be efficiently structured and should be significant for the listener to appreciate it ( and 2003,).
Lastly, the environment is the setting in which the speaker and listener belongs to. This is likewise affected by several forms of noise, or factors that negatively influence the effective delivery of message from the speaker to the listener. Examples of such noise are inefficient ventilation and seating, or even literal types of noise such as clatters and rackets in the streets.
The Process of Listening
As was earlier mentioned, the listening is a complex process; it is not something that simply occurs. As can be seen in the figure below, as a person talks, he or she also observe so as to know how the information conveyed is being accepted by the listeners. On the other hand, as another person listens, he or she evaluates the message, plans the response, and then rehearses this, and eventually executes the reply ( and 2003, ). However, individuals should remember that these elements that intercede between listening and speaking should not obstruct with the listening process, to assure effective interpersonal interaction.
Figure 1. Extended Model of Listening
Benefits of Effective Listening in the Organisational Level and Social Level
The listening process is considered as one of the most important factors that shape the interpersonal communication that occurs between people, in both relational and corporate contexts. To illustrate, it has been found out that hundreds of organizations in the United States point to poor listening capabilities as a major hindrance to individuals who aim to acquire positions in these organisations. Hence, effective listening skills are essential for effective performance, promotion, high productivity, and managerial competency ( and 2003, ).
In connection to this, research by and (1996) concluded that 70% of top US corporations such as Ford Motors, Bank of America, Delta Airlines, and the like, provide listening training for their human resources (as cited in and 2003,). This is because managers of these successful companies are aware that sufficient understanding and proficiency in listening skills are crucial to successful interactions with customers, clients, and other professionals.
As for the social level, listening also plays a fundamental role. For one, it promotes better family relationships ( and 2003, ). Frequently, conflicts between parents and siblings ensue because family members forget the importance of listening to each other. Oftentimes, these individuals prefer to continuously talk, without taking into consideration what others have to say. For instance, hostilities between husband and wife and usually occur in families because one party would rather rant and babble without listening to what the other party has to say. With this, it could be construed that effective listening skills encourage better relations in the family.
Furthermore, effective listening also brings about greater interpersonal enjoyment ( and 2003, ). Evidently, nobody would want to converse with a person who is known to be incapable of listening to what other people have to say. More specifically, people would rather befriend someone who is able to make use of an effective listening process, as oppose to someone who merely talks and never listens. Because of this, such individual would gain and retain friends and would therefore enjoy his or her interpersonal relationships.
Next, effective listening also improves one’s self esteem and social network. This is connected to the aforementioned social benefit of listening; it simply means that if a person is able to obtain acquaintances and obtain comrades, he or she would therefore have an expanded social network. Accordingly, that person would also gain more self confidence because of such interpersonal relations, and would likewise generally have an enriched existence and improved outlook in life ( and 2003, ).
At first glance, it may seem as if the listening process is relatively not a complicated procedure, which is why it is quite easy to utilize efficient listening skills in everyday interaction with other people. However, one should also take into consideration the various factors that influence its successful execution, because the process of listening is truly an essential and vital element in effective interpersonal communication between individuals, in both the social and organizational levels.
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