It’s pretty easy to ramble on; the challenge is often how to become an effective listener. Find out about the barriers holding you back from productive listening and how to conquer such barriers.
People speak a lot. As children we are taught how to speak. Then, as adults we are encouraged to become strong public speakers. Listening, however, isn’t something we learn from school since there is no formal instruction for it. This actually explains why most of us aren’t really good at it, and why people get bored while listening to a friend, while attending a conference or a even a khutbah.
Why is listening neglected in our society? Maybe if we were aware of its importance and the productivity that comes with it, our stance on listening would change.
Through listening, you get to know more about people whom you’re listening to; you get to discover their vision and perspective about life and how they react according to situations.
”Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” – Doug Larson.
Benefits of Being an Active Listener
1. Learning subjectivity: This will help give your own opinion and advice a special value. You’ll definitely remark that people will tend to care more about you as a person and won’t take your opinion for granted. It is because you listen attentively to them, and they will return the favor.
2. Acquiring wisdom: Another benefit from listening is the fact that you will become someone who speaks wisely and with reason which refers us what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ”Whoever believes in Allah and the last day should speak a good word or remain silent“.
6 Barriers to Productive Listening
1. Thinking about to say instead of listening to the speaker: We usually tend to think about what to answer the person who is talking, as opposed to listening thoroughly to their words. How many times have you begun to formulate a response even before the person finished?
2. Giving our personal view without being asked: Sometimes the speaker doesn’t want you to give him a solution or hear what you think personally. She/he just wants you to listen without getting involved.
3. Preconceived expectations: During the conversation, we try to predict what the speaker will say and we end up interrupting saying: “Oh I know what you are going to say“. Sometimes we are totally wrong.
4. Prejudice/judgment: If we don’t agree with what the speaker thinks or believes in, we shouldn’t turn the conversation in to an argument. Instead, respect people’s thoughts and remember that only Allah (glorified and exalted be He) judges.
5. Interrupting: By either changing the subject or turning the conversation toward yourself, you encounter problems and experiences. All this demonstrates a lack of concern for the other person.
6. Comprehend first: We forget that comprehension comes first and that agreement is a second level. If the speaker is seeking our agreement, we don’t concentrate on what he/she truly means first and automatically move to agree or not.
9 Steps to Productive Listening
1. Make the objectives of listening to a conversation for two reasons: To gain information and to understand something about the speaker. And make sure your listening is intended by heart and mind.
2. Focus while listening: Don’t get distracted, keep your feelings and thoughts apart, especially if you are related to the person (close friend or relative).
3. Respect your interlocutor and be aware of the position they’re giving you while you’re listening to them.
4. Try not to get bored and, if you do, don’t show it to the speaker. It is hard in the beginning, but with time you’ll get through it.
5. Do not interrupt: Listening is a commitment and interrupting breaks it. Sometimes you think you understand it all, until the speaker says something that changes the concept. And if you don’t understand something, or would like more explanations, wait until the speaker finishes then ask him/her about it. Also to make sure you understood a particular point said by the speaker, reflect it back to him/her to see their reaction about it.
6. Don’t rush to fill the silence if the speaker stops talking. Maybe he/she is thinking about what to say, how to explain or is organizing their thoughts. Be patient and give others the time they need to express themselves.
7. Avoid negative physical movements such as playing with something in your hands (keys, pencil, etc.), continually looking at the clock, moving your eyes. Sit calmly and comfortably, and keep the eye contact; one’s eyes are what one pays attention with.
8. Visually encourage the speaker: Mild head nodding, oral expressions like: “ I see , I understand, oh ok, yes”, and smile – it’s sunnah! The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once said: “When you smile to your brother’s face, it’s charity”. It can also help the speaker feel at ease.
9. Know when to stop to listening: You’re human so it’s normal for you to get tired if the conversation takes too long. Sometimes, the conversation moves from a subject to another and, if you’re not willing to get involved in another topic, then make it clear.
All in all, communication isn’t only about speaking and sharing how you feel, it is also opening the door for others to express themselves. Insha Allah you’ll find these tips and advice helpful.
About the Author
Yusra Ibrahim is a first year student in Business Administration, majoring in Management science. She belongs to a global leadership organization that aims to develop youth potential so as to make an impact on society. She’s also among the executive board of a female Islamic youth club that spreads Islamic awareness.