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When we talk about successful teachers, salespeople or managers, we often mention their communication skills. We talk about ‘good communicators’ clearly getting their ideas across in ways that have their audiences nodding and agreeing with them. But here’s a secret: the best communicators learned how to listen first. By listening carefully, they learned
So what is really involved in learning to listen?
An effective communicator is a good active listener. Good listening skills are needed to develop empathy and understanding and to assess whether someone understands what the speaker has said. Listening skills also help in negotiating with others and defusing any potential conflicts.
Listening is a two-way process. A teacher may do most of the talking but they also learn to listen to their students. As they listen to the students and develop an understanding of their needs, respect can grow between all of those involved in the learning experience. Listening to students allows teachers to personalise the learning experience, making learning more relevant to the student(s).
Listening can be divided into a series of stages. In practice, no one keeps strictly to these stages, but reflecting on them can improve a person’s listening skills.
People will be filtering and interpreting everything they hear through a personal screen of attitudes, values, assumptions, judgements, past experiences and strong feelings. Listening behaviour will also be influenced by factors such as age, sex, cultural background and even physical appearance and mannerisms.
In some cases you need to make allowances for poor listening in others, and take positive action to remedy the situation. Some of the steps you can take to improve listening skills in others include:
Improving listening skills starts with the motivation to concentrate on communication. Some of the ways a person can convey a genuine desire to listen and understand are:
Don’ts for group listening:
Developing listening skills is a critical part of a range of distance learning courses. If you would like to learn to be more effective at listening, click on one of the courses below do find out more.
You can also contact our careers counselling team for more advice finding the course that is right for you.