There are four ways in which we communicate viz. reading, writing, speaking and listening. All of us use the above skills on a day-to-day basis. During our school and college days which skills were predominantly tested? Our competency was predominantly tested on the way we scored marks during the examinations. The marks, the grade etc. depended on what we wrote during the examination. The writing skills depended upon the way we read and understood a particular subject. Some of us had to answer the Viva Voce or Orals wherein our speaking skills in answering the questions were tested. Later on as we planned to enter a professional life, we attended interviews. In short, our skills in reading writing and speaking were predominantly tested.
But then why so much fuss about listening? We have been listening to our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our friends etc. all along. Then do we really need to know what listening skills are all about?
Hearing is involuntary. As students, when a minimum of 70% attendance was compulsory to qualify for the examination, did we really listen to all the lecturers? Or were we physically present while mentally absent? Listening is voluntary where our mind plays an active role and thus can be termed as hearing with an attentive mind.
Empathic Listening is the highest and the most effective form of listening. The listener not only responds to the words and actions of the speaker, but also understands the feelings beneath the words/actions/body language. Empathic listening is listening with an intent to understand, where the listener gets inside the other person’s frame of reference and sees the world the way the other person sees it.
For example, a guest who enters a lounge bar may have a reality of how he may quench his need for a hot brew and a light snack to tickle his taste buds. However the Lounge captain may look at this guest as just another ‘bill’ and how his order can help him towards his revenue objective.
If the Lounge captain is preoccupied with his operating reality without bothering about that of the guest, the communication may not be effective and he may try to push high-end beverages to the guest. On the contrary if he is able to look from the guest’s perspective, the Lounge Captain may fully understood the guest’s need for a coffee and light snack – thus paving his way towards an effective relationship.