Business Communications Skills

Interpersonal Communication Skills

Listening

Why all this fuss about listening? Surely, after all that we have said so far on communications, this question ought not to be asked, but we are sure it should be asked, because nobody really listens! It is a vital communication skill, yet it is always being taken for granted that people actually listen and understand.

A survey based on interviews and questionnaire among 400 project engineering personnel proved that nearly 80 per cent of a managers time is spent in face-to-face interpersonal interaction with co-worker. It was found that although the substance of the oral message was important, the style and credibility were the key to the impact of the message on the receiver - a point which we have made earlier in this sub-section.

In another survey, more than three hundred members of the academy of Certified Administrative Managers were asked: "What abilities or competencies do you consider to be the 20 per cent that yields the 80 per cent results?" This 20:80 rule has its origin in the well-known Pareto law, sometimes expressed in the statement, vital few versus trivial many.

The survey led to a consensus amongst twenty critical managerial skills, of which four were rated by the participants as 'super critical', seven as 'highly critical' and nine as 'critical'. The four super-critical activities were found to be, in descending order of importance:

  • active listening;
  • giving clear effective instructions;
  • accepting your share of responsibility;
  • identifying the real problem.

Isn't that interesting? All the four super-critical activities relate to communication and of these listening is considered to be the most important.

Listening is big business these days. There are several full-time consultants, and seminar leaders who are occupied entirely, day in, day out, with this one subject.

There is also the International Listening Association, with members from several countries, which aims to promote effective listening through exchange of information, methods, experience and materials and pursuing research on the subject.

There are many books dealing exclusively with the subject of listening and the message running through all of them is simply this: listening is vital yet much neglected. It is a skill that can and must be acquired. They all seek to point the way to perfection, each author having his or her own 'golden rules'. Many of them, of course, are much the same in principle, only expressed in different words. We give you, for your use, the ten rules from a book (referenced) published by the American Management Association:

  • Look at the speaker.
  • Question the speaker to get clarification.
  • Show concern about the speakers feelings.
  • Repeat occasionally to confirm.
  • Don't rush the speaker.
  • Have poise and emotional control.
  • Respond with a nod, a smile or a frown.
  • Pay close attention.
  • Don't interrupt.
  • Keep on the subject till the speaker finishes his or her thoughts.

Let us conclude by saying that listening is a gift and a skill that can be learnt and must be learnt and to learn it will not cost you a great deal of money - yet it is priceless to the person to whom you are listening, and the skill is absolutely essential for you, as manager and as individual, both in your professional and your personal life, to be truly effective.

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