There are certain well-accepted essentials for good listening. More specifically, there are Ten Commandments, credit for which is given to an anonymous writer. These ten commandments of listening are as follows:
1. Stop talking
2. Put the speaker at ease
3. Show you want to listen
4. Remove distractions
5. Empathize with the speaker
6. Be patient
7. Hold your temper
8. Refrain from argumentation and criticism
9. Ask questions and elicit more
10. Stop talking again
Let us discuss each one of these commandments in some detail.
The first commandment of good listening is to stop talking. One cannot be talking and listening attentively, at the same time. The speaker cannot speak and get the message across if the listener continues to talk. Stop talking and start listening.
The speaker can really organize his thoughts and convey them meaningfully only when put at ease. The listener does so through several positive signals such as sitting down, turning to the speaker and observing.
This calls for a positive attitude on the part of the listener. The listener should indicate preparedness. The listener should make it clear that the listener is attentive and is keen to receive the message the communicator wants to convey. This may be done by appropriate body movement, right posture or by keeping the pen and pad ready.
Communication between the sender and receiver cannot progress if there are distractions. The receiver of the communication should show interest in listening, just as the speaker is interested in speaking. The listener has to remove distractions, if any, such as shut the door, switch off the cell phone and remove objects, if any, placed between the speaker and the listener so that body movements can be observed.
An important requirement for effective listening is that the listener should show empathy or proper understanding. The speaker may not be perfect and may have shortcomings. As a listener one should learn to put oneself in the speaker’s shoes.
T his is an important attribute of good listening. A listener should not only be attentive, but also patient. One should wait for the speaker to complete the talk. The listener should refrain from making frequent interruptions, should avoid making derogatory remarks, cynical comments and distracting gestures. Every speaker has a train of thought, and gestures of impatience on the part of the listener may disturb the delivery of the speech.
Good listening also calls for the right temperament. The listener may not appreciate what the communicator is conveying or the listener may decide that the speaker is factually incorrect. That does not give the listener a right to instant reaction.
This is not an uncommon happening. Occasions are many when the listener picks up an argument with the speaker. The listener tries to challenge the speaker and criticize the person. Any such argument or criticism would be detrimental to the flow of communication.
The speaker and the listener have their respective roles to play and the listener should not make any verbal attack on the speaker. If there are many listeners or a large audience, any such act will deprive them of the benefit of the speaker’s message.
While negative interventions and interruptions, as cited above, should be avoided, positive interventions by the listener are desirable. The listener should ask appropriate questions at the right opportunity to elicit more information.
In fact, any speaker would welcome this, for it not only provides the feedback, but also provides an opportunity to clarify the message and correct misconceptions, if any. In structured sessions in particular, the speaker provides for a question and answer session for facilitating greater understanding.
By asking the right type of questions, relevant to the speaker’s topic, the listener helps himself as well as the other listeners to get those details which are pertinent, but which the speaker missed out or did not cover adequately.
This aspect is so essential to the process of listening that it is repeated again as the tenth commandment. For speaking to progress smoothly, talking should be stopped not only at the beginning, but also throughout the message delivery process. Stop talking and keep listening.
It is evident that these Ten Commandments help the speaker in coming out with the best and making communication very effective. The speaker gets motivated and responds very enthusiastically to such appreciative listeners.