There is a huge difference between "hearing" and "listening." Hearing is the physical ability in which the ears receive sound and transmit those waves to the brain. Listening is a skill that allows for comprehension of those sounds. It requires concentration. And it is essential for success in school and at work. Listening skills are an important part of communication skills, although they haven't been given as much focus as speech or reading skills. However, it takes a good listener to create a good speaker. It's basic. A baby starts speaking after listening to the words parents and other adults or children say to the infant.
What Are Listening Skills?
Listening skills are important for advancement in any career. Children need to focus on learning these essential skills, especially in grade school. Good listeners know what's happening, learn new things, get better grades, make fewer mistakes and even can have more friends because people like to be heard. (Resource 2). Listening has three parts to it: hearing the speaker, understanding what the speaker is saying and making a judgment based on that understanding. Active listening also includes concentration---focusing on a speaker's eyes while processing inflection and body language. Listening skills involve patience as well by not jumping in and cutting off the speaker. Active listeners tend to be successful in their endeavors because they don't miss opportunities. (Resource 3)
Importance for Children
Listening is important to a child's development. Even before she can speak, a child respond to sounds around her---her mom's voice, another baby's cry. Listening skills are extremely important to academic development. Those skills also are important to her social development and ability to interact with her peers. Listening to others speak is an important part of speech, language and communication development, too. In kindergarten and grade school, children need to listen to make the word connections necessary for reading comprehension. (Reference 2)
Importance in Business
Because listening skills are so important in today's business world, many online courses are offered to help managers tweak their skills. Especially in today's diverse workforce, being able to listen---and understand---what a co-worker is saying is essential. Listening skills can ward off some bad cases of misunderstanding and hurt feelings.
Importance in Relationships
Listening is an important part of our communication process because it helps us understand the world around us and helps us deal more effectively with our own problems. In relationships, listening can provide the time and space to make connections stronger. Even when it is important that we speak our minds, it is more important to take some time to listen, to grasp what is going on and then to speak. Listeners are frequently welcomed into conversations, whereas "talkers" aren't always. (Reference 1)
Need a Brush-up?
Many websites offer ways to assess listening skills as well as ways to improve those skills. For instance, the National Capital Language Resource Center has a section that talks about "teaching listening."
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