Listening is a Communication Skill Too

October 2, 2017

Let’s talk about listening.

When it comes to effective communication, listening is one of the most important tools you have. Listening is how you gain information and learn. Listening is an important requirement for your job, school performance and social life. By becoming a better listener, you can avoid communication breakdowns, improve the quality of all your relationships and increase productivity.

Active listening, the key component that helps you transfer what you heard into memory, is becoming more and more rare. In fact according to the skills-building site Mind Tools, the average person only remembers between 25 to 50 percent of what they hear.

So what can you do to solve this problem? Like anything else, learning to listen actively takes practice and requires intentional effort. In the 2011 TED talk “5 Ways to Listen Better” Julian Treasure, the CEO of a worldwide sound consulting agency, offers the world tips on how to listen better. In his talk, Treasure explains how listening consciously is necessary to living fully as sounds connect us to the physical world and conversations help us connect to one another. Treasure gives tips on small exercises that help improve sound recognition and overall listening skills, as well as the acronym RASA that details the four steps to active listening in conversations:

  • Receive--Receiving information is the building block of communication. Pay attention to the person talking and really hear what they have to say.
  • Appreciate--Making little noises like “hmmm” or “okay” to signal to your audience that you are interested in what they’re saying. These affirmative noises will indicate to the person you’re listening to that they still have your attention and that you are an active part of the conversation.
  • Summarize--Treasure recommends recapping what the person has just said. This can be as easy as waiting for a pause in conversation and saying “So, what I hear you saying is _____?”
  • Ask--Ask questions. This works on two different levels. First, it helps clear up any ambiguities that might have surfaced during the course of the conversation. Never leave a conversation confused. If you need clarification on a point made, verbalize those questions while you are still on that topic. Second, asking questions is one of the key ways to move conversations from superficiality to  sincerity.

Try using these tips during a few conversations and see what happens. You may just find it improves your overall quality of communications and relationships.