A World Without Racism Listens
Listening and hearing are two related yet different things. When we listen we are actively making sense of what we hear, we are assessing what we hear, and we are responding to what we hear. When we are actively listening we are providing feedback to the speaker based on what (s)he said, by rephrasing their words. This way you are confirming what you heard and seeing if you understood the speaker correctly. Through this, the listener is sincere and not missing key aspects, as a result, misunderstandings and conflicts are reduced, and personal relationships and cooperation are strengthened. There are different degrees of active listening which include: repeating which is where the listener repeats the message received using the exact same words, paraphrasing where the listener uses similar words or phrases and reflecting when the listener uses his/her own words and sentence structures. When you engage in active listening you should also pay attention to the speaker’s behavior and body language in order to better understand their message.
In addition to this, one must have critical thinking skills to effectively process the heard information. Through critical thinking, a person qualitatively and quantitatively assesses the information that has been accumulated, and turns that into solutions to problems, and creates new patterns of understanding. In order to further one’s critical thinking skills, it is necessary to engage in active listening. By using critical thinking one can organize the received information, understand the context of it, make correct assumptions based on implications, create logical connections, and come to conclusions.
That being said, there are several barriers that can inhibit our listening. Low concentration, or in other words when you do not pay close attention to the speaker, is one thing that can hinder our listening. There are a plethora of things that can cause this including visual distractions, physical discomfort, auditory distractions, stress, lack of interest, and so much more. No matter what the cause of the distraction is, the result is the same: the effectiveness of the communication is diminished. It is the responsibility of both the speaker and the listener to make sure to work on eliminating the barriers so that the most effective communication can be reached. For example, there is a natural delay by several seconds between when the speaker says something and when the listener is able to comprehend the information, however, the speaker needs to pay attention and make sure that the listener is tracking and if not to adjust the vocabulary, speed, sentence structure, and so forth to fit the needs of the listener.
Similarly, lack of prioritization is detrimental to good listening. It is necessary for the listener to pick up on social cues and to be able to prioritize the information (s)he hears to know what parts are the most important within the given context. It is also important to have good judgment when listening. We must not overlook information, but at the same time, we can’t jump to conclusions either. Something that people often do is try to pick out things in the conversation that agree with the listener’s own views and beliefs, this is called confirmation bias, and it is a negative thing. Confirmation bias tends to make the listeners jump in on the conversation too early and distracts the listener from good critical thinking.
All in all, in order for us to be good listeners we must first understand the concept of listening, and not just hearing. We need to remember the key aspects and practice them in our conversations. By doing so we can become better listeners and improve our communication capabilities.