How Listening Skills Affect Communication

Louis Laves-Webb

March 8, 2016

Research on storytelling is at the heart of how listening affects interaction with your interlocutor. To be not only heard but listened to is a feat that requires careful choice of words, sentence structure, story elements, and intense amounts of patience and practice.

Listening, however, is sometimes overlooked as a viable skill for keeping communication open and productive. If a speaker is attempting to convince his or her audience to listen to the words that are being said, he or she must employ influential speaking techniques to convince the audience that the words are worth understanding. If the speaker is successful, the audience will be convinced to listen subconsciously.

However, not all humans are naturally equipped to be effective speakers. In a one-on-one scenario, odds are good that neither conversation partner is adept at speaking or listening. In these instances, effective listening skills are some of the most practical tools for ensuring that the conversation closes successfully.

What is reflective listening?

Reflective listening is a communicative listening tool based on the effort by the listener to understand the speaker’s expressed thoughts and provide relevant feedback to indicate comprehension.

This method of listening forces the listener to concentrate on the features of the speaker’s communication and draw conclusions based on the information that is received. If both partners in communication are able to use reflective listening, their efforts help to eliminate emotional distractions and exchange ideas based on concrete information.

How can reflective listening help me understand my partner?

When, as a partner in communication, you can accept the ideas of another, you benefit from the following:

Effective Communication

Communication works best when it occurs two ways and with mutual respect. Having your words be understood and receiving relevant feedback on those words is satisfying for both sides of a conversation. The more you feel your thoughts are understood, the more willing you may be to listen to the words of another. Listening on both sides increases the productivity of conversation, which is the very definition of effective communication.

Less Misunderstanding

It can be frustrating when an idea we hold as important is cast aside or misconstrued. Realizing that all thought processes are different and keeping an open mind to the ideas of others are vital parts of reflective listening and help avoid misunderstandings. Having a complete picture of your conversation partner’s ideas is also helpful when making judgments about your own ideas or trying to reach compromises that benefit the both of you.

More Partner Attunement

Once a firm pattern of effective listening is established, you may find that you and your partner think along the same wavelength more often. It’s likely that you’ll start to subconsciously think about your partner’s wants and needs when making a decision, and your partner may be doing the same.

Better Ability to Repair Conflict

The enhanced ability to reach mutual understanding through reflective listening can make conflict resolution simpler and faster. You may find that your partner’s reasoning on his or her side of a conflict seems more equitable as you sharpen your reflective listening skills.

Greater Sensitivity

Even when beginning to listen more closely to your partner, you may notice subtle social and body language cues that you haven’t noticed before. Vocal intonation and word choice might start to give off stronger signals that your partner needs communication with you.

More Empathy

With complete reflective listening comes a level of understanding that helps you realize the thought processes behind your partner’s emotions. You may find yourself more inclined to step into your partner’s shoes as you continue to learn how to listen deeply.

A combination of both listening and speaking skills is a rare occurrence, but it is not out of the realm of possibility. With enough practice and time, you can learn to adapt to many styles of speaking and hone your skills as a reflective listener and proficient communicator.

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