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LISTEN UP! According to Raymond McNulty, “Everyone who expects to succeed in life should realize that success will come only if you give careful consideration to other people. ” To accomplish this, you must be an excellent listener. One of the most critical skills that an individual acquires is the ability to listen. Studies indicate that a person spends 70 percent to 80 percent of his or her time communicating, of which 45 percent is spent listening. Nixon and West give the following breakdown for the average time an individual spends communicating. Writing 9 %

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Reading 16 % Speaking 30 % Listening 45 % Since almost half of the time spent communicating is spent listening, it is important to overcome any obstacles that obstruct our ability to listen and to learn new ways to improve our listening ability. Barriers to Listening Anything that interferes with our ability to listen is classified as a barrier to listening. These barriers can be divided into two basic categories—external and internal barriers. Internal Barriers. Internal barriers are those that deal with the mental or psychological aspects of listening.

The perception of the importance of the message, the emotional state, and the tuning in and out of the speaker by the listener are examples of internal barriers. External Barriers. External barriers are the barriers other than those that deal with the mental and psychological make up of the listener that tend to keep the listener from devoting full attention to what is being said. Telephone interruptions, uninvited visitors, noise, and the physical environment are examples of external barriers. Ways to Improve Listening Barriers to listening can be overcome.

However, it does take a sincere effort on the part of the listener. Neher and Waite suggest the following ways to improve listening skills. Be aware of the barriers that are especially troublesome for you. Listening difficulties are individualistic. Developing awareness is an important step in overcoming such barriers. Listen as though you will have to paraphrase what is being said. Listen for ideas rather than for facts. Expect to work to at listening. Work at overcoming distractions, such as the speaker’s delivery or nonverbal mannerisms. Concentrate on summarizing the presentation as you listen.

If possible, think of additional supporting material that would fit with the point that the speaker is making. Avoid trying to refute the speaker. Try not to be turned off by remarks you disagree with. H. Dan O’ Hair, James S. O’ Rourke IV, and Mary John O’ Hair, Business Communication: A Framework for Success (Cincinnati: South-Western Publishing, 2001), p. 211. Judy C. Nixon and Judy F. West, “Listening—The New Competency,” The Balance Sheet (January/February 1989), pp. 27-29. William W. Neher and David H. Waite, The Business and Professional Communicator (Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1993), p. 28.


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