To me, effective listening skills means being selective and it can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of the communication process, may it be professionally or personal.
Julia T. Wood, in her 2004 Book “Interpersonal Communication, Everyday Encounters, Fourth Edition” tells us that effective communication is defined by being mindful, by physically receiving messages, by selecting and organizing material, by interpreting communication via responding, remembering and watching our forms of non listening, which are comprised of pseudolistening, monopolizing, listen defensively and ambushing; while I disagree that selective and literal listening falls within the non listening category, the less evolved communicator may slip them into such a category.
Within chapter 7 she also points out that we are bombarded daily with a slew of external as well as internal obstacles and I have to look no further than my present projects. I attend an Kaplan’s Online University and within the pixel classroom walls, I have to read the course book chapter, write and respond to classmate postings, verify and research the validity of what is being taught or said by the Instructor, come up with a project that meets the Instructor’s guidelines, all within a time table of seven days. And this is just one course.
Add here that during the seven days life goes on. Money has to be made, bills have to be paid, intimate relationships have to be nurtured, puppies and gown boys have to be attended to, chores have to be accomplished and at some point, something for pleasure has to be added to balance my mentality, never mind addressing my physical health. Within these occurrences, I can find many noise levels, serious information overload, total preoccupation, tangible prejudgment, reacting emotionally if I do not watch it and ultimately, lacking effort period.
In order to have none of the expectations and forces of life do too much communication damage, I use critical thinking skills and self analysis to foster effective communication. In other words, I screen, I become selective and I adapt my communication style to remain effective. As a result, I feel that the most strongest skill in the listening department is one’s ability to adapting their listening skills appropriately to the person and the accompanying situation. No longer will they be at the whim of others and their communication time table; no longer do they have to be available to every John, Dick and Crochetta that wishes to communicate about some funky concept, idea or issue.You remove the guess work one can so easily find within interpersonal communication and I am, despite the best efforts by others, embracing selective and literal communication.
I am renowned for my literal listening, even before I became selective. English is my second language, it was self taught in the United States and therefore, I take words exactly for what they supposedly stand for. While the English language has many meanings associated with one word depending on the context, the English language also has a word for everything. When someone says I am pretty, it means I am pleasing or attractive to the eye yet when someone says I am stunning, it tells me I am astonishing or amazing with my beauty. The fault with that logical application, limited as it may be, is that the person making the compliment may interchange the words based on some individualized and arbitrary meaning, so in order to improve listening in a non literal manner, one has to try to understand, and guess, at the speaker’s perspective.
Although I do not feel I necessarily need to work on or improve on my overall selective and literal listening skills, I do realize the limitations that my selective and literal listening imposes. “Literal listening, which involves listening only for content and ignoring the relationship level of meaning” (Wood 2004) does not take into account that people do not just communicate with actual words, but bring with them an assortment of “feelings and a connection to the words utilized” (Wood 2004).
In order to remain effective, we, or at least I, need to make sure I diligently continue to hone my ability to adapt my listening skills appropriately to the person .. and the accompanying situation.