Kevin Ian Schmidt

Effective Communication Skills: LISTENING

An important aspect of enhancing one’s communication skills is becoming a good listener.

People tend to place the emphasis on speaking as the most important aspect of communication, but this is not necessarily so. Breaking down the percentage of time spent throughout the day for an average

person engaged in one of the four aspects of communication:

  • Listening-42%
  • Talking-32%
  • Reading-15%
  • Writing-11%

The reality is that the majority of people only listen for approximately 25 percent of the time. And in many cases, most people only listen to the first couple of words from a speaker before starting to formulate a response in their minds. There is a distinct difference between listening and hearing.

Merriam-Webster (1994) describes “hearing” as: “the process, function, or power of perceiving sound” (pg. 346).

Merriam-Webster (1994) describe “listen” as: “to pay attention in order to hear” (pg. 433).

The key to becoming a better listening is to stop simply hearing what someone is saying and to start listening to what is being said.


The following are some suggestions for becoming a better active listener:

  • Do No Interrupt.

To become an effective listener, wait until the speaker is finished before providing feedback or expressing opinion. People have a tendency to become impatient while listening and cannot wait for the speaker to finish. Not only is this rude, but it will drastically limit the information exchange and damage the communication process.

Check Out: Effective Communication Skills – NONVERBAL
  • Do Not Jump to Conclusions.

Do not assume that you know what the speaker is going to say. People can process information faster than one can speak (up to three times faster). For this reason, one might start formulating a response before receiving all the necessary information. This can lead to confusion and poor response on behalf of the listener.

  • Do Not Judge the Speaker.

Do not allow ones opinion of the speaker to interfere with the message being received. The speaker’s accent, speed of delivery (talks too fast or too slow), appearance, and age are just a few factors that can create bias and limit effective listening. Concentrate on the content of the message, not on the speaker.

  • Take Notes to Hold Interest.

Not only is taking notes a good way of retaining information for a later time, but it also helps the listener maintain interest, shows the speaker that you are paying attention, and helps eliminate distractions.

  • Ask Questions.

Asking good questions, paraphrasing, and providing feedback are essential to good listening. This will help one listen more carefully and will also strengthen the relationship between the speaker and the listener. Good listeners play an active role in the communication process including head nodding, eye contact, and asking questions. Some rewards for becoming a good listener include “expansion of knowledge, vocabulary development and language development, ability to evaluate messages, passing examinations, saving time, accruing financial benefits, and short-cutting acquisition of knowledge. This will also help in the areas of public relations, investigations, and crisis/emergency management situations.

By using these listening suggestions, practicing them, and putting them into action, the security officer can maintain an open line of communication and will be better able to obtain sufficient information for reporting to supervisors and preparing for investigations. The security officer will also be able to gather this information while continuing to project a professional image on behalf of his or her employer.

How important do you feel listening is as part of effective communication?

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