The Importance of Active Listening

Introduction

Every person needs to understand the importance of listening and not just listening, but actively listening. Listening helps people in understanding one another better, which is needed to have healthy relationships and solve problems. Although listening is a difficult task, it requires having goals and being committed to achieve them. In the professional world such as nursing, the main goals of active listening are to ensure quality patient care and patient satisfaction. At the individual level, the main goals of active listening include- amending relationships, learning, and others. In this regard, people should strive to establish their listening strengths and weaknesses, and work towards addressing their weak points. By doing that, they come to realize how their listening weaknesses threatens their ability to perform well at work and to relate with others in the society.  

The Importance of Listening and its Role in the Nursing Profession

Listening is not simply hearing what is being told but it is an effort of making sense of what is being heard. However, good listening also involves taking note of the non-verbal forms of communication. Therefore, at some degree, people need to be trained to be good listeners. Listening skills vary according to the various listening preferences people usually have. Nevertheless, for professional purposes, people need to be skilled in all styles of listening (Arnold, 2014). In nursing, listening skills need to be continually reviewed in addition to being trained. That is claimed to be so because, listening skills are the most important skills required to achieve quality patient care. Patients are individually different and nursing have to listen to each one of them well to establish what unique health problems each of them has. In addition, nurses need to build a valuable relationship with each of their patients in effort to know their concerns and preferences. That objective cannot be achieved without good listening skills (Connolly, 2016). 

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According to Jahromi, et al. (2016), poor listening practices are among the main causes of medication errors. Such outcomes are said to be there because, listening is not an easy task. To listen well, a person needs to concentrate, have the right attitude, interest, and other emotional and intellectual processes. Furthermore, listening has different levels based on the efforts a listener puts to hear and understand what is being said to him/her. However, to achieve effective communication, listeners need to attain the highest level of listening, which is active listening. At the mentioned level, a listener listens to get the contents, the intention, and the feelings of the person speaking. To gather more information or get more clarity, interest is shown by asking relevant questions and using the eyes to get any non-verbal cues being expressed by the speaker. Active listening also involves allocating enough time to listen to the speaker and ensuring the environment around is less disruptive and noisy. In support of Jahromi, et al. (2016), University of New Mexico (2016) asserts that despite the professional expertise that nurses have, they are greatly challenged by the need to be active listeners. In the health of patients, nurses play the biggest role in ensuring quality patient care and that they do by gathering information from patients, assessing them, and communicating their findings to the doctors. Hence, to be effective nurses, nurses need to prove that they are active listeners. To be active listeners, nurses need to determine where they can have a conversation with the patients, when and how. That is, they need to ensure that they have adequate time to interact with each patient. In time allocation, nurses also need to give an allowance for any discomfort a patient may have to communicate. Thus, active listening is important to meet patient satisfaction, administer the required treatment, and quality patient care.

To develop active listening skills, Mequita & Carvalho (2014) argue that first, nurses need to consider the effort as an intervention to improve healthcare. Hence, an effort such as providing nurses with enough education that covers learning activities that include lecturers, dramatization, doing practical lessons, readings, and discussions is encouraged to reinforce active listening skills.

A Detailed Outline of a Personalized and Sophisticated List of Ten Criteria for Effective Listening Behavior

  1. To understand why listening is important and choosing to actively listen

Schilling (2012) underscores that being aware of the benefits of active listen motivates a person to be an active listener. Active listening is time consuming and time is not enough especially in the present time. However, weighing the benefits and the costs, one would choose to actively listen to a speaker in effort to- build a valuable relationship, find appropriate solutions to problems, address conflicts, avoid errors by ensuring good understanding, among others. To understand why listening is important also involves being aware of the unnecessary costs incurred from poor listening and choosing to actively listen to avoid the costly mistakes.

  1. Prepare for active listening

That is said to involve putting aside all personal agenda and judgments to allow the speaker have his/her space. By doing that, helps the environment become free of any disruptions and attracting more concentration (Mind Tools, n.d; Schilling, 2012).

  1. Being curious of what is being said

To be curious is claimed to help the listener seek to understand more what is being said and to ask questions for clarity and more information (Mind Tools, n.d; Schilling, 2012).

  1. Maintaining eye contacts when listening

Eye contacts are found to be effective in taking note of any non-verbal cues (Mind Tools, n.d; Schilling, 2012)

  1. To avoid having certain expectations of what is being communicated

Expectations can make someone interrupt what is being communicated. To obtain the intended information, the best behavior is to wait for the entire message to be communicated (Mind Tools, n.d; Schilling, 2012).

  1. Ensure the speaker is comfortable and has enough time to clarify his/her information and/or making a point (Mind Tools, n.d; Schilling, 2012). 

The effort demands the listener to be patient enough with the speaker (Mind Tools, n.d; Schilling, 2012)

  1. Choosing to listen to learn, gather information, to understand, or enjoy but not to judge.

When the listener becomes judgmental, he/she will use non-verbal means of communication to judge what is being said and that will interrupt the speaker when speaking. Rather than being judgmental, use of non-verbal tools to express interest, encourage more talk, and acceptance is encouraged (Mind Tools, n.d; Schilling, 2012).

  1. Ask questions when the speaker poses or ends his/her message

For clarity purposes (Schilling, 2012)

  1. Adopt the same feelings that the speaker is expressing to improve the relationship

Sharing feelings encourages the speaker to feel more comfortable and feel free to open up more (Schilling, 2012)

  1. Give feedback to what has been gathered.

Schilling (2012) informs that feedback helps the listener to show that he/she has been following what has been communicated and has been understanding.

A Descriptive Analysis of my Listening Strengths and Weaknesses

Since listening is a learned skill my strengths and weaknesses reflect what I know are the benefits of listening, my listening practices, and my listening preferences. 

My listening strengths

I have an idea of the importance of listening and some knowledge of good listening behaviors. From what has been said by scholars in this field, I agree that it is only through good listening habits that a person is able to understand well what is being communicated. Good listening habits help people to understand needs and finding appropriate solutions. Good listening habits I have known involve, maintaining eye contacts, asking questions for clarity, and avoiding disruptions. Using that knowledge, I changed my listening habits by setting my listening goals.

By understanding what listening entails, I established that listening is a humble practice that is required of every leader. Without good listening behaviors, a person will not get the information he/she needs to be a successful leader. In that regard, I value and respect every person that chooses to inform me and that is shown in the way I prepare myself to listen to people. Just as it has been told, I ensure that I choose an appropriate environment that allows the speaker to be comfortable to talk and I avoid being judgmental and expectant.

My listening weaknesses

I can be choosy, which affects my listening preferences. That is, I can allocate more time to listen to people that have information that is aimed at building me and have less time to listen to people I find to have information that corrupts me. Not all messages are good and there are people that are known to deliver messages that corrupt people’s minds. I tend to believe that denying such people the time they need to inform me discourages them to consider me as a person they can relate to in that manner.

My listening behaviors depend on the characteristics of the speaker. To children that tend to talk throughout I sometimes pretend to be listening to them. Even though this behavior is unavoidable, I fear that there are times when I miss the important information they may have. Just like children are, there are adults that talk too much and I sometimes forced to pretend that I am listening to what they are saying, but I usually have the same fears.

Another weakness I have is being judgmental and when I am judgmental, I become defensive. In that state, I become a weak listener and I tend to interrupt the speaker causing him/her to have difficulties in communicating the entire message. The outcome of this situation is that I end up having unresolved conflicts and problems.

My other listening weakness is being choosy in listening to what I want to hear and avoiding what hurts me. By doing that I fail to be open minded, which is important in improving learning, building relationships, and solving problems.

Based on the analysis, I do agree that listening is a hard task and it is a decision a person makes by choosing to ignore other personal forces that affect listening for the purposes of making things better. However, where needed, some controls need to be applied to avoid corruptive behaviors. At work places, active listening is required and listeners need to put aside their personalities for the best interest of the client and organization. Nevertheless, Weerasinghe & Thisera (2014) note that listening is a more complex problem that a person begins by assessing his/her listening behavior. Listening is part of communication but many tests are conducted on reading and writing and that has made people to continue being weaker at listening than they are at reading and writing. Failure to focus on listening aspect of communication has made people have a poor understanding of what listening is and its potentials. Listening is a process that has several parts, which are receiving, attending to the message received, understanding the message, responding to the message, and remembering it. Based on my listening strengths and weaknesses, I would say that where I have interest, I end up having a positive listening process but where I find difficulties, I struggle with several parts of the learning process. The parts I struggle with is receiving the message and understanding the message. That is, I may choose not to receive the message in its entirety and eventually fail to understand it in order to respond to it effectively. Nonetheless, my weak points can be related to the notion that when communicating, people need to have a well-organized message that has an attractive subject that draws the interests of the targeted audience. The way a message is organized affects the listening process as explained by Weerasinghe & Thisera (2014) and speakers need to be cautious about that. That is, speakers need to be familiar with the human’s listening process and be careful to ensure the way they construct their messages promotes a positive listening process of their listeners. In light of that, I agree with Weerasinghe & Thisera (2014) in claiming that everyone has listening strengths and weaknesses and my weaknesses are in a way common. 

A Summary of my Listening-Test Results

QuestionsMy AnswersAnswers given
1Living in a private accommodation and foreign customsLanguage and customs
2Music, historyMusic groups or local history groups
3In the town hall and libraryPublic libraries and the town hall

Table 1 displaying my listening test results to three questions asked about knowing things in the UK as a foreigner (IELTS, 2018a; IELTS, 2018b)

Comparing my answers to the answers given, I can say that I listened well to the information being given about how to learn things in the UK as a first time foreigner in the region. In the first question, I can say that I misunderstood the impacts of living in a private accommodation that hinders a foreigner to interact with the public. However, for the other questions, it is evident that I understood the information well. Perhaps, with the use of questions, would have helped me clarify the impacts of having private accommodation in learning more about the UK.

My performance on the test may have also been influenced by my learning strengths and weaknesses. The information discussed an interesting topic that would be useful to me as a foreigner in the UK. Hence, I concentrated more to learn new things. My listening weakness may have been ignoring to understand what I considered obvious and that hindered me to question what had been said about private accommodation. Based on the results, I have noted how costly my listening weaknesses are and will choose not to ignore or assume any message that I may consider too obvious to ask for clarity. Nevertheless, I can say that the listening skills I have are good to help me benefit a lot from what is being communicated.

A Detailed Plan to address my current Listening Weaknesses and a Plan to continue making improvements

Based on what I have gathered from different scholars, in order to address my current listening weaknesses, I will at first need some counseling to help me avoid being judgmental to persons that inform me about what I do not want to hear. To manage this, I need to be committed to the change and make an effort to be a positive thinker. In addition, I will need to understand the views of the persons I judge to establish their intentions. More so, I would need to be patient to allow them deliver their message to avoid making hasty conclusions/judgments. The effort of avoiding being too judgmental may not be an easy task for me but I will take small steps to make the change I need to have. To persons that talk too much, I would need to allocate time for them and make it known to them where, when, and how they are to communicate to me. In allocating time, I will consider the characteristics of the persons that need to be listened. For people known to have corruptive information, I will make it known to them what I do not like and will only choose to listen to them when they have positive messages to share with me. Nevertheless, to establish if their intensions are positive, I would need to hear their entire messages. Choosing to do this may help me realize that I may have been wrong about them all along and will help me in building a good relationship with them. In other words, I will choose to address my listening weakness as a way to reconcile with persons I have feared to listen to as active listening enables people to establish the motives of those speaking (Weerasinghe & Thisera, 2014; Deutschendorf, 2014).

Conclusion

The study on effective listening has an important lesson for every person. The knowledge about why it is important to listen and the exercise conducted of assessing listening skills helps a person to identify which areas make him/her unproductive in the society. Active or effective listening is therapeutic in resolving relationship problems that almost every person has. At the workplace, active listening helps employees to avoid making costly mistakes. Personally, effective listening will help me become a better nurse and will help me to resolve the differences I have had with people I have always thought they are after harming me. That is, active listening will give me a second chance to understand those persons better with an aim of correcting the perceptions I have had about them.  


References

Arnold, C. L. (2014). Listening: The forgotten communication skill. Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism, 4. Doi: 10.4172/2165-7912-1000e155.

Connolly, M. (2016). Listening skills 1: How to improve your listening skills. Nursing Times, 45(46), 10-12.

Deutschendorf, H. (2014). 5 ways to improve your listening skills. Retrieved< https://www.fastcompany.com/3036026/5-ways-to-improve-your-listening-skills>.

IELTS (2018). Sample test questions. Retrieved< https://www.ielts.org/about-the-test/sample-test-questions>.

IELTS (2018). Listening sample task- short answer questions. Retrieved< https://www.ielts.org/about-the-test//-/media/pdfs/listening-sample-task—short-answer.ashx>.

Jahromi, V. K., et al. (2016). Active listening: The key of successful communication in hospital managers. Electronic Physician, 8(3), 2123-2128.

Mequita, A. C. & Carvalho, E. C. (2014). Therapeutic listening as a health intervention strategy: An integrative review. Critical Review, 48(6), 1122-1130. Doi: 10.1590/S0080-623420140000/700022. 

Schilling, D. (2012). 10 steps to effective listening. Retrievedhttps://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2012/11/09/10-steps-to-effective-listening/#42693aca3891.

University of New Mexico (2016). Importance of communicating in nursing. Retrieved< edu/articles/importance-of-communication-in-nursing.aspx”>https://rnbsnonline.unm.edu/articles/importance-of-communication-in-nursing.aspx>.Weerasinghe, T. D. & Thisera, T. J. (2014). Keys to effective listening and presenting: An action plan. Kelaniya Journal of Human Resource Management, 9(1). Retrieved< https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313828241_Keys_to_Effective_Listening_and_Presenting_An_Action_Plan>

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