The Forgotten Art of Listening
Communication is important in maintaining a functional relationship (Skaldeman, 2006). An effective communication emphasizes on the bidirectional interaction: talking and listening. However, most people pay too much attention on expressing one’s thoughts and emotions, while overlooking the importance of listening. Burley-Allen (1995) proposes five main types of poor listening styles that hinder communication. Nonetheless, it is important to note that these various styles are not specifically attributed to a person (Lauer & Lauer, 2012). People may occasionally fall into one or more of these styles in a conversation.
I. Intellectual Listener
When people listen intellectually, they are often being too rational. They analyze the messages delivered to them critically and failed to attend to the non-verbal cues. Therefore, they often fail to form appraisal of the speaker’s feelings or intentions.
Fake listeners pretend to listen while not truly attending to words or non-verbal cues of the speaker. However, they show signs of listening such as smiling and nodding their heads. Most of the time, people slip into fake listening when they are distracted, or occupied with other issues, so not attentively tuning into the conversation.
III. Self-Conscious Listener
They are more concerned about their own images than the message speakers try to convey. Instead of understanding what the speaker says, self-conscious listener may only concern about responding in a way to impress the speaker.
Interrupters are impatient in expressing their own opinion. Perhaps they are afraid of forgetting their point, or are more concerned about their own ideas. Thus, they usually do not allow the speaker finishes speaking. Such listening style can be destructive to a relationship because speakers often do not have the opportunity to complete their speeches and express their actual thoughts.
V. Dependent Listener
Dependent listener’s primary goal is to please the speaker. They may provide excessive compliments or agree to what the speaker says without accurately processing the speaker’s intention in order to please the speaker. Habituated dependent listeners may have troubles building fulfilling relationships because they strive to meet the speaker’s needs from their own perspectives.
Nonetheless, Burley-Allen (1995) pinpoints several strategies to improve listening skills. One important strategy is to take initiatives in the communication. In the video, the good listener encourages the speaker to continue by showing genuine interest and making non-committal remarks occasionally throughout the conversation. Other constructive strategies illustrated in the video include rephrasing the speaker’s stance to check for feelings through asking questions, avoiding distractions (i.e. mobile phone) and summarizing the speaker’s words to ensure there are no misinterpretations in communication.
Communication is not only about transmission, but also reception. Listening styles are found to predict the stability of romantic relationships and marriages (Skaldeman, 2006), in which poor listening styles are threatening to functional relationships.
Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The forgotten skill (2nd ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Lauer, R., & Lauer, J. (2012). Power and conflict. Marriage & family: The quest for intimacy (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Nichols, M. P. (2009). The lost art of listening: How learning to listen can improve relationships. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Skaldeman, P. (2006). Converging or diverging views of self and other. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 44, 145-160.