Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Need for Active Listening....wait, what???

As an element of emotional intelligence, social awareness is defined as the ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on with them.  This often means perceiving what other people are thinking and feeling even if you do not feel the same way (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002).  Perceiving emotions in others requires much greater listening than that done with one’s ears.  Being socially aware, which is certainly a core competency of any leadership model, requires listening and observing skills.  The effective leader and the efficient learner both understand the importance of watching and listening to people in order to “get a good sense of what they are thinking and feeling” (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009, p. 38)
Active listening is a core element for building strong collaborative partnerships, which is important for lifelong learning because, the weaker the connection you have with someone, the harder it is to get your point across” (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009, p. 44).  Based on the information process model of learning (Ashcroft, 1994), active listening therefore promotes active learning.  As described by Gordan (1970), active listening requires the effective use of silence, paraphrasing, acknowledging without judgment, clarifying, and exhibiting empathy.  Covey (1989) exemplified four aspects of listening that includes:
·         Ignoring, (obvious),
·         Pretending, this usually involves hearing but not processing the information,
·         Selective listening, this involves processing only parts of the message,
·         Attentive listening involves paying attention and focusing on what you are hearing.
Traits that affect listening effectiveness were described by Pearce, Johnson, and Barker (2003), in Table 1 (as in Ladyshewsky& Vilkinas, 2011):
Staying neutral and not getting involved emotionally, enhances listening.
Listening increases with age, until you get very old.
Open Mindedness
Having an open mind improves your ability to listen.
Level of self-centeredness
Over-preoccupation with self-image, knowledge or importance reduces effective listening.
Don't do multiple tasks when trying to listen.
A moderate relationship exists between intelligence and listening.
Level of anxiety and stress
Stress lowers our ability to listen.
Managerial rank
Managers tend to listen better than subordinates.
Presence of problems
Diminishes hearing.
Women are generally considered better listeners; men prefer to listen to the general, women to the details.

Ashcraft, M.H. (1994). Human memory and cognition (2nd Ed.). NY: Harper Collins
Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J., (2009) Emotional Intelligence 2.0.  Talentsmart Service
Covey, S. R. (1989). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. New
            York: Free Press.
Dittmar, J. K. (2006, Fall). An interview with Larry Spears: President & CEO for the Greenleaf
            Center for Servant Leaders. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.
Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2002). Primal leadership: Realizing the power of
      emotional intelligence. Boston: HBS Press.
Gordon, Thomas. (2000). 1st rev. pbk. ed edition Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0609806939
Ladyshewsky R. Vilkinas, T.  (2011). Academic leadership: Fundamental Building Blocks for Fieldwork Coordinators [Resource book]. Strawberry Hills, New South Wales: Australian Learning and Teaching Council
Pearce, C. G., Johnson, I. W., & Barker, R. T. (2003). Assessment of the Listening Styles
            Inventory: Progress in establishing reliability and validity. Journal of Business and
            Technical Communication, 17(1), 84–113.

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