Hearing and listening are not the same thing. Hearing is the act of perceiving sound. It is involuntary and simply refers to the reception of aural stimuli. Listening is a selective activity which involves the reception and the interpretation of aural stimuli. It involves decoding the sound into meaning.Listening is divided into two main categories: passive and active. Passive listening is little more that hearing. It occurs when the receiver or the message has little motivation to listen carefully, such as music, story telling, television, or being polite.
People speak at 100 to 175 words per minute, but they can listen intelligently at 600 to 800 words per minute (WPM). Since only a part of our mind is paying attention, it is easy to go into mind drift – thinking about other things while listening to someone. The cure for this is active listening – which involves listening with a purpose.
It may be to gain information, obtain directions, understand others, solve problems, share interest, see how another person feels, show support, etc. It requires that the listener attends to the words and the feelings of the sender for understanding.
It actually takes the same amount or more energy than speaking. It requires the receiver to hear the various messages, understand the meaning, and then verify the meaning by offering feedback. The following are a few traits of active listeners:
- Spends more time listening than talking.
- Do not finish the sentence of others.
- Do not answer questions with questions.
- Are aware of biases. We all have them…we need to control them.
- Never daydreams or become preoccupied with their own thoughts when others talk.
- Lets the other speaker talk. Does not dominate the conversation.
- Plans responses after the other person has finished speaking…NOT while they are speaking.
- Provides feedback, but does not interrupt incessantly.
- Analyzes by looking at all the relevant factors and asking open-ended questions. Walks the person through your analysis (summarize).
- Keeps the conversation on what the speaker says…NOT on what interests them.
- Takes brief notes. This forces them to concentrate on what is being said.