Keep Listening Skills SharpKeep Listening Skills Sharp

Listening is an emotional and intellectual act of "hearing" another person and responding to his or her verbal and nonverbal messages in a deep, caring way.

People commonly use four types of listening. The first two are very unproductive; whereas, the last two result in efficient communication:

1. Inactive listening. This type of listening is known as "in one ear and out the other." The listener hears only words. The speaker's message and intention do not get through to the listener.

2. Selective Listening. This common type of listening filters the message. The listener will block much of the message, only "hearing" what he or she wants to hear. For example, the listener might prejudge the speaker or trigger emotional filters upon hearing particular words or content associated with the past.

3. Active Listening. An active listener makes an effort to listen completely'to hear the speaker's words, message, and meaning behind the message. This powerful type of listening considers the speaker's intent and nonverbal communication. Active listeners may not agree with what a speaker says. However, they listen empathetically and without judgment, showing the speaker that they understand what they have heard.

4. Reflective Listening. This powerful type of active listening also receives the entire message. It is especially useful when dealing with difficult issues and resolving conflicts. Reflective listeners add another action that is important: they reflect back what they hear and ask for clarification. They want to gain mutual understanding.

Joyce Hifler described the power of these deep types of listening. She wrote:

"To have someone understand why we cry or laugh, why we feel downcast for no apparent reason, is to have a friend. A friend accepts our changes of mood without telling us to snap out of it. They know if we could so easily handle tears we would have done it already. All our loneliness and worry and fear seems to fade in the presence of a friend who, without judging, stands alongside with loyalty... It gives us what we need to be a friend as well."

You can keep listening skills sharp by practicing active and reflective listening. Most importantly, these skills will help you to nurture and maintain positive relationships in your career and personal life.

by Steve Brunkhorst
References and Bibliography

? Copyright 2006 by Steve Brunkhorst. Steve is a professional life success coach, motivational author, and the editor of Achieve! 60-Second Nuggets of Inspiration, a popular mini-zine bringing great stories, motivational nuggets, and inspiring thoughts to help you achieve more in your career and personal life. Get the next issue by visiting

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