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listening styles

This week’s test was another eye-opener in my Supervision class. This time w discussed effective listening and analyzed our individual listening-styles. Apparently, too many of us are terrible listeners – we listen primarily because it is the price we have to pay to get people to let us talk!

Anyway, according to the active listening survey, I scored 24 points. A score between 22 points – 26 points suggests that I’m a good listener with some listening deficiencies. This exercise has highlighted some of my good attributes like maintaining eye contact, but it also helped identify some bad listening habits I have; which include loss of concentration and slightly inactive listening. I have always perceived myself as a good listener and this status has consistently been confirmed by a number of close friends who have dubbed me a very good listener. Until I started grading myself on issues involving selective and judgmental listening, I did not actual realize that I listened for specific facts and sometimes made judgments on the logic demonstrated by the speaker. I also thought I had a special skill of easily recalling all that was said in a conversion. Now that I think about it, it is probably more of a characteristic of a good memory rather than good listening.

Apart from maintaining eye contact, two other strengths of my listening style are asking questions, and the interpretation of nonverbal cues. I usually ask questions to ensure I fully understand and to clarify any misunderstandings I might have had. My mum has said that I was very inquisitive and always asked many questions as child. In listening, this strength has been very useful. I remember when I recently moved from Nigeria to Canada. I was once in a public library and needed a calculator, but I didn’t have mine with me. I noticed that the person seated opposite me had one so I asked if I could quickly use his. His response was “Sure. I don’t care”. I was slightly offended. When I asked what he meant, he looked puzzled and said “Yes I can. No need to rush”. This helped clarify his message.  In Nigeria, if someone asks for a favor and it won’t be any trouble; people almost exclusively say “I don’t mind”. If one says “I don’t care”, it simply shows a lack of concern, regard or respect; most times, when it is used, it is intended to be rude. Here in Canada, the two phrases apparently mean the same thing in some contexts. My second strength is the ability to interpret nonverbal signals and vocal cues. I’m highly sensitive to changes in body language, facial expressions, moods and vocal sounds. It helps me decode and read latent messages without the person having to hint. This strength has been particularly useful in my friendships and relationships. At one time or another, a friend/girlfriend might have been upset about or tired of something, and without even audibly or visibly suggesting so, I could imagine/tell just how they felt. I do this by merely reading/being sensitive to his/her body language, the sound of his/her perplexed tone and choice of words. I’m almost always right and it has helped me in being an empathetic listener.

Even with all the above qualities, as a good listener with some deficiencies, I obviously have some things I need to work on. In other to be a more effective listener, one thing I need to improve on is avoiding distractions. This means I have to consciously try to always give the speaker my undivided attention. I’m a lot better in person (face-to-face), but over phone, sometimes I’m unattentive. I usually find it difficult to drop what I was initially engaged in and focus solely on the speaker, so I continue my previous engagements. This has caught up with me a number of times. One of such occasions was at a birthday party. I was told to introduce some people in a certain order different from the list’s order. I was so engrossed in watching the couples’ activities that did not even hear that instruction. I ended up doing the wrong thing! Thankfully, it did not turn the party into a complete disaster. Another thing I need to work on is not interrupting. I tend to do interrupting actions like making irrelevant comments or cutting the speaker off. It has taken me sometime to realize that what I have to say is not more important than what the speaker has to say. An example of a situation when not interrupting would have helped was in a meeting. Again, there was a clash of cultures. In Nigerian culture, it is acceptable to talk over someone in order to have a say. When I did that while another group member was talking, he saw it very disrespectful. Apparently, in Canada, most people deem that as offensive behavior. I have changed in that aspect in my approach though…obviously! lol.

An effective listener is one who listens actively. Active listening is listening with intensity, empathy, acceptance and willingness to understand the speakers’ reasoning. I found some of the tips highlighted in my text (Robbins S. P.: Supervision in Canada Today 3rd Edition) here – http://www.womensmedia.com/new/self-improvement-listening.shtml.

I hope you learn/you’ve learnt something(s) too.

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