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Listening and Responding to Others

Chapter Summary

This summary is organized around the questions found at the beginning of the chapter. See if you can answer them before reading the summary paragraphs.

1. Why is listening essential for effective communication?

We spend as much as 53 percent of our total communication time listening, yet most of us are poor listeners. We are preoccupied, distracted, or forgetful as much as 73 percent of the time we are listening and we remember less than 25 percent of what we hear. By improving our listening skills, we strengthen the foundation for shared meaning in communication and increase satisfaction with our interpersonal relationships.

2. What are the stages of the listening process?

The four stages of the listening process are (1) attending, (2) interpreting, (3) responding, and (4) remembering. The listening process begins when we actively select, or attend to, stimuli in our environment. We assign meaning to the selected stimuli in the interpretation stage of listening. Responding to a message involves any discernable reaction to a message. We respond to messages verbally and nonverbally. Finally, the remembering stage involves the retention and recall of messages.

3. What are the differences between active and passive listeners?

Active listeners frequently remember more information than passive listeners. Active listeners focus on the moment, are aware of interactions as they occur, and resist distraction in the communication situation. Passive listeners, by contrast, expend little effort in the communication process, lack focus and awareness of the interaction, and are easily distracted.

4. What are some important obstacles to effective listening?

There are many obstacles to effective listening in every communication situation. Sometimes we encounter external obstacles such as poor acoustics or distracting environmental noises. Events that occur prior to or after the interaction can also present challenges. In addition, our attitude toward the communication situation can also influence our ability to listen. Low self-esteem, preconceived attitudes, personal or emotional investment in a speaker or topic, and indifference can all diminish our ability to listen effectively.

5. What are the four types of listening goals?

The four listening goals are (1) appreciation, (2) comprehension, (3) empathy, and (4) evaluation. When our goal is appreciation, we listen for pleasure and enjoyment; when we listen for comprehension, our goal is to understand the message. Empathetic listening involves not only understanding the message, but also recognizing and supporting the feelings and emotional states of others. Finally, evaluative listening helps us render an opinion or judgment about the message.

6. What can you do to become a more effective and responsible listener?

Listening is a skill that can be improved. Some of the ways to listen responsibly and effectively that were discussed in this chapter include preparing physically and mentally to listen, talking notes, being open-minded, using perception checks, actively providing feedback, demonstrating comprehension, staying involved throughout the interaction, and organizing material and information.

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