Proactive versus reactive listening!

ProactiveVSReactive-620x330Friends how often we see that by jumping at several small opportunities get us to the goal more quickly than waiting for one big one to come along. How often you see our peers complaining about not getting enough opportunities at their way. How often do you see people struggling to make it big in their carrier or not able to achieve good grades or achieve success in different spheres of life? You will find one thing common in those individuals; they don’t listen! They have worst eye to detail, will have high and mighty attitude of I know it all and will sit ideal and wait for an opportunity to knock the door.

The ability to truly listen is one of the greatest assets that you can have as an individual. People fail to listen if they are too busy talking, distracted or disinterested. Regardless of the reason, failure to listen causes miscommunication, misunderstandings and unsolved problems, which are hazardous to any business environment.

You have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk. The art of trying to appear to be listening to someone, but just reading to the last non-essential thing they said is reactive listening. Reactive listening is the worst form of listening and it’s often called as programmed way of listening. For example you ran into some one important and he starts to speak non-essential stuff. Now you can’t ignore him or duck the conversation as he’s a big shot. You can’t close your ears instead you chose to close your mind. You start to react at the last word of each sentence and don’t understand the meaning. In the middle he spoke something really important, and put his message across, you misses the bus. May be an opportunity just ran away. People don’t listen effectively, they only retain about one quarter of what is being said. For those of us involved in procurement and negotiation, it is heartening to learn that studies have shown that skilled negotiators listen twice as effectively and ask four times as many questions as average negotiators. It comes as no surprise then that, as a result of superior listening skills; the skilled negotiator’s retention level is higher.

Proactive listening is an act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another in a conversation or speech. Proactive listening is an important business communication skill, and it can involve making sounds that indicate attentiveness, as well as the listener giving feedback in the form of a paraphrased rendition of what has been said by the other party for their confirmation. Proactive listening is the intentional and conscious effort to listen for understanding. Proactive listeners not only remain silent and give attention to a speaker — they use nonverbal gestures for engagement and feedback for message confirmation. Proactive listening isn’t an inborn talent. It must be practiced and frequently applied to foster healthy relationships in the workplace.

There are few important ways you can improve upon your proactive listening skills:

  1. The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind so “stay quiet and try to make eye Contact”– The first basic elements of proactive listening involve taking a listening posture. In some cases, people don’t listen well because they talk too much or think about what to say. A proactive listener makes an intentional effort to give the speaker time and Making eye contact with the speaker is another proactive listening technique, as it shows

respect and attention to the speaker, but also helps you as the listener to stay engaged with the message.

  1. Nodding the head down doesn’t row the boat so learn to lean In and Nod- Making assertive nonverbal movements and gestures distinguish proactive listening form reactive listening as well. Leaning in toward the speaker is one sign of proactive listening. This movement isn’t intrusive or aggressive, it is just a simple maneuver to show interest and get closer to the message. Nodding your head after major points presented by the speaker is an important nonverbal gesture as
  1. Everyone need people who will give us feedback that’s how we improve so paraphrase for Confirmation– A major and often overlooked element of proactive listening is the feedback Take this step immediately after the speaker has finished his message, when you paraphrase or summarize your understanding of the message. By doing so you show the speaker that you heard and understood him/her. It also enables the speaker to clarify any misunderstandings. This vital proactive technique helps protects against you taking action with a false premise, or you and the speaker having different interpretations after the communication.

Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new so ask follow-Up Questions– Additional technique that separates great proactive listeners from average or good ones is asking follow-up questions. In some cases, people leave gaps or uncertainties in their messages. A proactive listener doesn’t just leave things up in the air. He asks questions to get more details or to address uncertainty about action steps. Asking good follow-up questions allows the listener to gain more insight into the speaker’s perspective, pull out more useful information and ensure that intended messages that didn’t come out in the original conversation are

Through proactive listening, truths are revealed and problems are effectively resolved. This is not an easy process because it requires you to be poignantly aware of your own feelings, thoughts, perceptions and reactions. Specifically, you must be in touch with your own mind, body and spirit while staying connected to the speaker. With humility, sincerity and practice, it can be achieved.

Proactive listening is first about understanding the other person, then about being understood. As you gain a clearer understanding of the other person’s perspective, you can then introduce your ideas, feelings and suggestions. If you apply the skills required for proactive listening, you will not only be known as a good listener. You will become a better leader as well.

Contributed By : Vaibhav Chandra (Class of 2009,IBS Hyderabad)

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