The importance of Listening in Intercultural Communication

One of the most important skills to learn in effective intercultural communication is listening. Without this ability, messages are easily misunderstood and the communication breaks down.

Listening is one of the most important trainings for everyone – parents, teachers, educators, employees, employers… – because good listening skills lead to:

  • better mutual understanding
  • greater effectiveness (and productivity)
  • fewer mistakes
  • increased sharing of information
  • more creative and innovative work
  • better relationships

Listening skills are building blocks of successful communication – not only in the workplace but in all interpersonal relations!

They improve our self-esteem and confidence, help attain higher grades at school and in academic work, and they have beneficial effects on our health and general well-being.

Studies have shown that speaking raises blood pressure, whereas attentive listening can bring it down!

Listening is not Hearing

Hearing is a physical process that, if you don’t have hearing problems, happens automatically. During this process we perceive the sounds that enter in our ears.

Listening, on the other hand, requires focus and concentrated effort on a mental and physical level.

We need to be able to pay attention to:

  • what is said
  • how it is said
  • how the language and voice are used
  • the other persons’ body language

We need to be able to pay attention to the verbal and non-verbal messages and to understand them! – We need to know how to read “in between the lines”!

We spend about 70% of our time engaged in some kind of communication. From these 70% we spend 45% on listening, 30% on speaking, 16% on reading and 9% on writing

– Adler, R., Rosenfeld, L. and Practor, R., 2001, Interplay: the process of interpersonal communicating (8th ed.), Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt.

During my training as a coach I have learned to become a better and more conscious listener.

We all think that we are good listeners, but most of the time, while we listen, our main concern is to formulate our response. 

We should rather focus on what is said, how it is said and why, in order to fully understand the speaker.

In order to listen effectively you need to use all your senses – not just your ears

Effective listening has many purposes, depending on the situation and the nature of the communication:

  • Focus on the message
  • Avoid distractions and preconceptions
  • Gain an accurate understanding of the speakers point of view and ideas
  • Assess what is being said
  • Observe the non-verbal signals
  • Show interest and concern
  • Encourage the speaker to communicate with confidence
  • Put the speaker first
  • Aim for a shared and agreed understanding and acceptance of both sides views

Also read: 10 Principles of Effective Listening

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  1. Pingback: The importance of developing multilingual listening skills - Ute's International Lounge

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