Listening as an Aspect of Interpersonal Communication

1. Introduction

1.1 Background 

Interpersonal communication is usually defined as any communication between two people. This two-ways exchange of information requires skills in expressing and assimilation messages. Communication is referred to as the most complex activity people perform. Listening is the most commonly used aspect of communication as it is vital for proper understanding of provided information and it is a gateway to understanding the desires and needs of others. It is essential for people to learn and practice the skills of interpersonal communication as they help to live together, come into relationships, etc. It presupposes the receiving and delivery of messages. Interpersonal communication includes writing, listening, speaking, sending and getting non-verbal signals in a direct, attentive, empathetic, and confident way. Listening is an essential aspect of interpersonal communication. People usually spend more time listening than reading, speaking, or writing. However, people are not listening if they do not concentrate and understand the information they hear. 


1.2 Research Aims and Objectives

Listening is treated as the core component of interpersonal communication skills. It refers to as an active process that includes conscious decision to listen and understand the conveyed message. Listening usually deals with increased patience, pauses, and short periods of silence. A speaker should have time to express the feelings and thoughts. Therefore, the listening process takes time.

The research aims at investigating listening as an essential aspect of interpersonal communication. The primary objectives of the study are to analyze listening as an aspect of interpersonal communication and to investigate the most effective type of listening. 

1.3 Research Questions 

To meet the research aims and objectives, it is essential to answer the following questions:

  1. Why is listening essential for interpersonal communication?
  2. What listening types are the most common?
  3. What is the most effective type of listening?

2. Literature Review

The analysis of relevant literature has shown that listening is an essential aspect of interpersonal communication. The importance of listening in the educational and occupational domain has been investigated by Weger, Castle, and Emmett (2010). Development of listening skills enables people to integrate their skills and to encourage both leading and professional development. Active listening is considered to be the most effective type of listening. Hence, active is usually defined as an attentive, responsive, and non-judgment listening process in the two-way information exchange. It is main aim is to understand the message provided by the speaker and to pay attention to non-verbal behaviors, giving answers to questions and non-verbal cues (Weger, Castle, & Emmett, 2010). Active listening requires practice. Sometimes, it is difficult to master this skill as the listener has to concentrate on the content of the message and not just hearing to the speaker. In addition, active listening is means listening with all senses and giving full attention to the speaker.

It has been found that active listening is showing both verbal and non-verbal signs of listening and providing proper responses (Active Listening, n.d.). Non-verbal signs of active listening mean that listeners tend to show at least some signs. However, these signs are not the same in different cultures. A smile is often used to represent attention to what is being said. It is also the way of showing happiness and agreement with the received message. A smile with a head nod is powerful in affirming the messages. An eye contact is another sign of listening. It encourages the person who listens to look at the speaker. A combination of smiles and eye contact encourages the speaker to continue the communication process. A posture can inform about the speaker and listener in interpersonal interactions. Attentive listeners are likely to lean slightly forward or sideways. A slight head slight or resting on the head are other active listening signs.

Mirroring is an automatic reflection of facial expressions of the speaker. This sing of listening shows empathy and sympathy in the situations of increased emotions. Conscious mimicking of facial expressions is often treated as a sign of inattention. Distraction is looking at the watch or clock, picking fingernails, playing with any object, etc. 

Verbal signs of active listening include remembering, positive reinforcement, reflection, questioning, and clarification. The sign of positive reinforcement should be used with great care. Frequent repetition of words and phrases can irritate the speaker. Many people fail to remember certain details. However, remembering the key points can help to make sure that the messages have been understood and the process of listening has been successful. When a listener remembers ideas, concepts, and details from previous conversations is a proof that the person was attentive. It is effective to take notes during long information exchanges as they are memory logs. Reflection is a close repetition or paraphrasing of speaker’s words to express comprehension. It reinforces the message and represents its understanding. Questioning helps to demonstrate that the listener pays attention, clarifies, and makes statements. When a speaker asks questions shows his interest in the message conveyed. Clarification means asking questions to make sure that the message is accurately received. It presupposes the use of open questions. Summarization is treated as a repetition of the main ideas and concepts of the message. The listener takes the main points of the message and reiterates them to provide a speaker with an opportunity to correct the message if necessary (Active Listening, n.d.).

Research results indicate that listening effectively and actively people get more information from a message. In increases the trust of others, reduces conflicts, provides better understanding of motivation, as well as inspires a higher commitment level in the people addressed. At the same time, poor listening skills and inability to provide constructive feedback are treated to be the main challenges of potential communication. Training and improvements in listening skills is extremely essential for the modern world as these skills have been valued and highly appreciated. 

In the scientific literature, listening has been widely recognized as a multidimensional construct that contains cognitive, affective, and behavioral processes. Cognitive processes include  understanding and receiving relational messages, affective processes presuppose the motivation to attend to the messages, while behavioral processes comprise reposes with both verbal and non-verbal feedback (Weger, Castle, & Emmett, 2010). Hence, as listening is a cognitive phenomenon, it is closely linked to conversational sensitivity, cognitive complexity, different dispositions of information processing, and others. 

Good listeners tend to have certain attitudes, including desire to listen, empathic concern, or formulation of listening goals to enhance attentiveness to the message conveyed. The process of listening shares conceptual space where there is a possibility to describe behavioral involvement in terms of expressiveness, interaction management, and immediacy (Bodie, 2011). Effective and active listening presupposes a combination of a variety of abilities and skills. However, scholars often ignore the aspect of listening as an essential component of interpersonal communication. 

Thus, the analysis of relevant literature has shown that listening as an aspect of interpersonal communication has been investigated by different scholars. However, there exist different characteristics of the listening types. Although the scholars treat listening with slight differences, the main idea of its effectiveness and importance remains the same. Effective listening requires practice and a combination of skills and abilities. 

3. Methodology

Research is usually referred to as a process that helps define the problem. It also suggests possible to solution through data collection, analysis, and evaluation. Research is always associated with the search of information and knowledge. Any research needs proper research methodology and research approaches. It is the key to providing reliable and effective answers to the research questions. It is essential to select a justified and effective research approach as it will help in meeting the research aims, objectives, and assist in providing answers to the research questions.

The current research uses the qualitative research method as it helps to focus on gaining better research insight into the research problem. It helps to provide clear and detailed information about listening as an aspect of interpersonal communication. This research approach does not require measurements as it presupposes gathering, analysis, and summarization of the information provided by others. Therefore, the study will provide a better understanding of listening aspect, its necessity, and effectiveness. 

The research has used the secondary data. It means that the information for analysis has been taken from external sources, such as journals, magazines, Internet, etc. The researcher analysed and categorized the received data. It was done according to the research questions, identified interactions, patters, and ideas. In addition, the researcher took the part of an observer to become a part of a real life interpersonal communication. These actions assisted in finding connections and patterns of communication aspects within different situations. After collecting the above-mentioned data, the researcher has evaluated it, sorted and presented to answer the research questions. Finally, the researcher analysed and compared the received data, as well as took notes to improve the research results and make them more reliable and valid. Therefore, the implemented research method helped to investigate listening as an essential aspect of interpersonal communication. 

4. Results

Listening is an essential aspect of interpersonal communication as it ensures clear understanding of the message conveyed. The ability to listen attentively and effectively is considered to be an essential skill. People spend many hours listening. In case a person is not an attentive listener, the efficiency of listening is only 25% (Weger, Castle, & Emmett, 2010). The research results have shown that it is possible to improve people’s listening skills through constant practice. Hence, it is essential to prepare to listening, realize that it is work, be open, do not interrupt, empathize, and be attentive. Also, it is good to maintain a listening posture and eye contact. The main steps of effective interpersonal communication are message focus, magnification of the listener’s attention, active listening, and barrier penetration. 

The most common types of listening are passive, active, reflective, and competitive. However, active listening is considered to be the most effective as it presupposes the use of all senses, providing responses, and using different signs. Active listening means listening to the speaker’s message and signs, removing all possible distractions, and providing the feedback that the message is clearly understood. This type of listening has several benefits over others. First of all, it makes people be very attentive while listening. Second, it is effective as it avoid misunderstandings. Third, it is suitable for open people, who get an opportunity to say more (Tyler, 2011).

Active listening is referred to as a structured form of listening and giving answers. It involved the increased focus on the listener’s attention. It is essential to repeat the main ideas represented by the speaker to make sure that the message is properly understood. However, the listener does not need to agree with the message. It is necessary to simply confirm the understanding. In case the listener does not show it, the speaker explains the message once again.  

5. Discussion

The importance of listening skills is valuable not only in the professional and academic setting. It is vital for the everyday life. Not many people understand that the practice of good communication is essential for the life among family, friends, and other people. Listening leads to the increase of productivity, improvement of relationships, increase of one’s self-esteem, and even becoming a better speaker. Some people find listening to be a very simple and passive task, but they are mistaken. Listening is not a mere ability to absorb information, it is an active process.

There are four types of listening, such as active, passive, reflective, and competitive. Active listening is a two-way communication. The listener is listening with great attention, thinking about the conveyed message, and making sure that he properly understands it. A feedback is usually provided to clarify whether message the message is clearly understood. Passive listening is one-way communicate on and it does not presuppose any feedback. In addition, the message is not always understood. Passive listening is typical for students in the classroom when they do not need to provide responses. The most common examples of passive listening are listening to the radio, TV, etc. Reflective listening presupposes the concentration on the speaker’s feelings expresses through words. A listener may reflect not only on what information received, but also on the speaker’s words. Competitive listening is listening to the information that is treated as necessary. The example of competitive listening is argument, when none of the parties is listening to what the other is saying (Interpersonal Communication, n.d., p. 84-85).  

Active listening is an important part of the two-way communication that results in shared understanding. Despite the fact that the primary aim of listening is to comprehend the speaker’s thoughts, people who listen should show that they are attentive. Active listening tends to avoid interruption and taking mental or written notes of the most essential ideas for further clarification. Good listeners are always aware of the information provided. In addition, it is essential to be aware of the listening barriers. It is not appropriate to make a response while the speaker is expressing ideas, thoughts, and feelings as it prevents from providing organized information. A listener should not be distracted by disagreement or anger. These barriers interrupt effective listening and absorb the message being expressed. There exist the several listening barriers. Some people find that the improvement of listening is the same as the improvement of communication. However, these are two different processes and they should not be interchanged. People utter less word a minute than they hear. As a result, there is a loss of focus. In addition, listening for a long time is an exhausting procedure. In many cases, stereotyping makes people hear what they expect rather than what a speaker actually says. 

Active listening is considered to be the most effective type of listening as a person should acknowledge feelings and emotions. It is used to get a mutual understanding and is highly valued during conflicts. In case of a conflict, people tend to concentrate on the arguments and the responses rather than listening to the speaker. This indicated the fact that they are unable to effectively comprehend a message provided by the speaker. Active listening does not mean that a listener agrees with the speaker. It only shows that the listeners clearly understand the idea of the conversation. 

To be effective, this type of listening has to be based on the main attitudes. Effective listening means that a person demonstrates a respect to the speaker. It is an essential way of bringing changes in people. Also, it is the most effective agent for the development of group and personality changes. It should be highlighted that active listening causes substantial changes in the people’s attitudes towards others, the surrounding environment, personality philosophy, and even themselves. When people become more open, emotionally mature and experienced, less authoritarian, more democratic, and less defensive, they often use active listening. 

When a speaker understands he is listened to sensitively, he tries to become clearer, listen to himself, and be more careful to details. It is evident that group members listen to each other more attentively, are less argumentative, and are almost always ready to incorporate other viewpoints. Listening tends to reduce the threat that one’s ideas will be criticized. It also helps speaker to identify whether their contributions and ideas are worthwhile. 

The research has shown that the process of listening can be divided into several stages, including receiving information, its understanding, remembering, evaluating, and responding to it. Good communication is always analyzed with the help of this model as it helps to identify the skills needed to each step in the listening process. It is essential to remember that listening is a process that requires effort, Hence, understanding and realization of this idea makes a person a better listener, speaker, and communicator. Good understanding of how the listening process works provides the basis people need to explore the reason of listening, including different styles and types of listening. It has been found that listening helps people achieve their communication goals. Therefore, listening is essential for different contexts and aspects of human life. 

6. Conclusion

Strong skills of interpersonal communication are vital to effective coexistence and life with others. Inability to communicate with others makes people less able to perform successfully. Hence, effective communication includes careful listening to others, clear speaking and expressing thoughts, effective writing, and understanding the message. Improvement of the above-mentioned skills takes time, effort, and practice, but it leads to an open dialogue and increased trust between the listener and speaker. 

The process of listening has different purposes. Some of the most common ones are better understanding of information, focus on messages sent by others, critical evaluation of messages, indication of the fact that people are paying attention, and others. Monitoring of nonverbal signals and engagement in negotiation or dialogue is also essential. Despite the fact that many people believe that they are attentive and effective listener, thy need to develop their listening skills. Listening effectively is the skill that only few people can do. But it is not related to the fact that listening is difficult. Development of listening habits makes people effective listeners. 

Thus, listening is the most essential aspect of interpersonal communication. It is related to the fact that if a person fails to understand the message expressed, he/she will also fail to provide meaningful and reasonable response. This is the main reason of numerous misunderstandings, arguments, and complications at home, at work, and other places. The ability to control the process of listening makes people better communicators. 

Researchers from different fields have been actively investigating interpersonal communication and listening as its most essential aspect. This issue is analyzed from numerous perspectives and provides rather scattered literature. Listening is often referred to as a key component to effective interpersonal communication and is the core of competency in personal and professional relationships. Therefore, further research is needed to provide a better understanding of listening and its types. Greater emphasis should be made on active listening as the most effective types of listening.

Jul 11, 2019 in Communications
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