Breaking Down the Listening Process
ListeningOpens in new window is concerned with ‘a process of receiving and interpreting the spoken word.’ It involves recognizing what is said and comprehending the message. Listening is a complicated process that contains the following four stages:
- Sensing and attending
- Understanding and interpreting
The stages occur in sequence and almost subconsciously as people generally are not aware of them. We take turn in discussing each of them.
- Sensing and attending
Listening begins with physical hearing of the message and taking note of it. Sensing is, thus, the first step of the listening process. You hear sounds and then attend to them in order to receive the message. Once you are able to recognize the sound patterns, comes the next stage: understanding and interpreting the message.
Understanding and interpreting
The second stage in the listening process is to understand and interpret the meaning of the message. In the listening process, understanding implies that you are able to assign the intended meaning to the content or verbal part of the message.
Interpreting in the listening process implies that you are able to ascertain the emotional meaning the speaker attaches to the message by his or her use of nonverbal signs, such as tone of voice and body movementOpens in new window. Understanding and interpreting a message is an important stage in listening because it enables you to evaluate its meaning for correctness and validity and respond to the other person.
Remembering is the process of storing the meanings that have been received so that they may be recalled later. A good reason for taking notes in a seminar or meeting, for instance, is that it is easier to forget than to remember. Studies show that we tend to forget a great deal of what we hear almost immediately. In the same way that you listen selectively, you remember some messages more easily than others, perhaps because some messages are more important to you than other messages. The pitfall is that selective remembering creates problems when you forget a message or part of a message that later turns out to be important.
The fourth stage in the listening process is that of responding to the message. At this stage you complete the process of listening by providing feedback to the speaker. If the message has been analyzed, interpreted, and evaluated correctly, the feedback will be appropriate. The importance of your feedback is that it is the way the speaker knows you sensed (heard) the message, understood, interpreted, and evaluated it – in other words, that you have been listening.