Listening is critical to learning and an important part of the communication process. In a training institution some of the course material may be delivered through lectures, through audio, and through verbal instructions. Even with practical demonstrations and instructional videos, much of the content is delivered through the spoken word. If you are not fully involved in listening, you will miss some important information and can easily be distracted. On a job site, effective listening can be critical in ensuring the safety of you and your co-workers and ensuring that a job is completed accurately and on time.
Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person so that the message is fully understood. The following are several techniques that you can use to demonstrate active listening. The techniques you use will vary depending on the situation. For example, active listening during a lecture will require different techniques than active listening about a personnel matter at the job.
Eliminate distractions. Shut off shop equipment, radios, or other competing sounds. Be aware that on a job site you may not be able to eliminate all distraction, so you may have to put additional effort into concentrating on the information you are receiving. Try to put personal problems aside. Limit engagement in other activities such as texting or working on other assignments. If you are having difficulty concentrating, use techniques to keep your mind from wandering. This may include taking very brief notes or jotting down questions you might want to ask at the appropriate time.
Put yourself inside the speaker’s thoughts and feelings to better understand what they are saying to you. Be aware of your unconscious biases and how they may inform your conclusions about what the speaker is saying. Suspend your own judgment and position until you clearly understand the other person’s perspective.
Listen for Feelings
Try to “listen between the lines” to understand the attitudes, needs, and motives behind the words. Changes in volume and tone, as well as non-verbal clues such as facial expressions and gestures, can help you determine how the speaker is feeling.
Use “listener-friendly” body language: make eye contact with the speaker or focus on the audio or visual presentation at hand. Try to connect the information you are hearing with what you may have previously learned or already know. Pay attention to any visuals that may accompany the audio, such as, an instructor writing on a board or asking you to look at a visual in your textbook or online while they continue speaking.
Even if you don’t agree with what the speaker is saying, it is important that the person knows you are listening and that you understand what they have said. Use nods and acknowledge that you hear what they are saying and make respectful comments that show you have heard what was said. These comments do not need to be in agreeance with what the speaker has said, but rather allow them to know that you have heard what they had to say. Validation is important in building strong interpersonal relationships with others.
When the speaker has finished talking, repeat in your own words what the speaker said so they know they have been understood. This is an important skill for a tradesperson, as it helps to lessen confusion when specific directions for tasks or materials have been given. Paraphrasing back instructions or material lists helps to prevent mistakes that can create costly delays on jobs and financial losses.
Ask questions to get more information, especially if you’re not clear on what was said. Do not be afraid to ask a question, especially if not asking has dangerous or costly repercussions. It is important to take your cues from the presenter on when to ask questions. While some instructors may ask you to interrupt and ask questions at any time, others may ask you to hold questions until the appropriate time.
Participate in discussions and respond to questions. Be present, not just of body but of mind as well, take your time to reflect on what the speaker has said and provide thoughtful questions or feedback to further explore the topic of conversation. Participation shows that you are interested, engaged, and are processing the information, while not participating leaves the speaker wondering whether or not you are connecting with the information.
Now complete the Learning Task Self-Test.
- Listening is not part of the communication process.
- Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person so that the message is fully understood.
- You are in a meeting with your colleagues. What is required in order to send effective messages?
- Listening and non-verbal communication
- Both verbal and non-verbal communication
- Verbal communication and facial expressions
- Listening, non-verbal, and verbal communication
- Being aware of your unconscious biases can help you empathize with the speaker.
- Making eye contact and focusing on the presentation is an example of what kind of body language?
- All of the above
- It is important to agree with everything the speaker says in order to validate their presentation.
- You should avoid asking questions unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Paraphrasing back instructions or material lists helps to prevent mistakes that can create costly delays on jobs and financial losses.
- Be present means taking time to reflect on what the speaker has said and provide thoughtful questions or feedback to further explore the topic of conversation.
- Participating leaves the speaker wondering whether or not you are connecting with the information.
See the Answer Key in the back matter of the textbook for self-test answers.