Managers and employees use their listening
skills to increase productivity and profit, build
employee morale, mainstream business
procedures and practices, meet changing
consumer needs, and improve customer relations.
Hearing is the involuntary physiological process
of receiving sound waves through receptors in the
ear that transmit them to them to the brain. We
automatically sense and receive various sounds,
but not consciously aware that you are hearing
them. For example, you may hear the hum of
your printer without actually listening to it. So,
unlike hearing, listening requires intrapersonal
focus and message decoding to attach meaning to
the messages we hear.
Listening is an active process of selecting, attending to,
interpreting and remembering sounds. Selecting
essentially refers to becoming aware of and choosing a
given sound among many competing sounds. Attending
involves consciously focusing on sounds because they are
interesting, expected, or surprising. Interpreting is the
process of decoding sounds to gain understanding and
assigning meaning to messages in the context in which
they are received. Associating messages with your
personal experience or prior knowledge can help you
interpret them. Remembering involves the storage of
received information in short-long-term memory. We
remember information for the purpose of later retrieval
and use.
Active Listening- This is an intrapersonal and
interactive process in which we actively focus on,
interpret and respond verbally and nonverbally
to messages. The most significant aspect of active
listening is vigorous participation by the listener,
demonstrated by his or her full concentration on
the message and thoughtful and appropriate
feedback to the speaker. Active listening provides
the foundation for other types of listening such as
learning, critiquing what is heard, providing
Critical Listening- involves making assessments and
decisions about what you hear. Assume one of your job
responsibilities is to hire new employees for the
company. To accomplish this task, you will need to
review numerous resumes and select certain
applicants to interview. During the interview process,
you will need to seek information and critically
evaluate the responses you receive. Your critical
listening skills will help you determine the suitability
of each applicant’s professional experience and his or
her ability to work well with other employees in your
Dialogue Listening- is used to identify, share and
explore other people's meaning and perspectives
in an open group dialogue. This type of listening
is not self-focused or other focused. It is usfocused communication because it is co- created
and collaboratively developed by all the
participants. Dialogue listening is like a
brainstorming session in that the ideas of all the
participants are encouraged. It is also like
sensitive listening in that those ideas are not
judged or negated.
However (unlike sensitive listening), dialogue
listening includes and focuses on all the people in
the interaction. Dialogue listening is an
especially effective tool for business professionals
since it combines active listening skills such as
learning and sensitivity. Situations that involve
conflict or problem identification, idea
generation, change initiatives and strategy
sessions can all be enhanced through dialogue
Passive Listening- is the absorption of sounds
without the personal involvement necessary for
active attention, interpretation, or feedback . The
difference between passive listening and not
listening is that when you listen passively, you
listen for enjoyment.
Casual Listening-Informal casual listening
involves both conversational interaction and
polite acknowledgement of the speaker’s social
message. Conversational casual listening is
interpersonal listening that occurs among two or
more people in a social setting. However,
conversational listening does not necessarily
require effective listening because listeners may
elect not to concentrate on or respond to all the
messages they hear while in social groups. Polite
casual listening is passive because the listener
may not be interested in the topic and does not
participate in the interaction.
Much of the data necessary for decision making
comes through listening to employees, and poor
listeners miss important information.
 Listening makes a person more dependable.
People who listen well follow directions better,
make fewer errors, say foolish things less often
and generally become the kinds of people others
will ask for advice or direction.
Good listeners are more respected and liked by
those they work with. Managers who listen
compliment those they listen to, in effect telling
them they are worthy people. This trait can lead
to harmonious labour relations since employees
generally trust and support managers who “listen
them out.”
 Better listening enables a manager to be better
informed overall.
A lack of motivation is also another barrier to listening.
Many people find maintaining the continuous motivation
required for listening to be a challenge.
People speak approximately 25 percent as fast as they
would think. This barrier is known as the 25-75 problem.
As a result, instead of listening carefully, some people think
about other things and devote only a fraction of their
capacity to taking in what is said. They become impatient
with the slow rate of the spoken word and begin to think
about topics other than the words being spoken;
consequently, our inability to speak more rapidly becomes a
physical barrier in listening situations.
Lack of willingness. A manager may not want to listen. If a
person consciously or unconsciously decides not to listen,
listening skills are of no advantage. Why would a manager
lack the willingness to listen?
People would rather talk than listen; and even when they
ask a question, they often interrupt the first sentence of the
The listener may quickly stereotype the speaker as one who
has little to contribute and is not worth listening to.
A listener may lack willingness because she may not want to
receive negative information. For the speaker who brings
‘bad tidings,’ what incentive is there to listen?
Defensive behaviour works against listening. Some mangers
consider the slightest attack on one of their opinions as an
attack on them personally; consequently, they will rise to
the defence. This defence often involves verbal attacks that
preclude the possibility for listening.
Internal noise. Our autonomic nervous system
involuntarily pays attention to certain events
such as a headache, sore feet or an empty
stomach. It is difficult to divide attention
between these involuntary distractions and
concentrated listening.
 External noise. Environmental noise that may
compete with the main topic of interest. It is hard
to listen to a subordinate who is soft spoken in a
noisy foundry or to a phone conversation with a
lot of static on the phone line. In these situations,
separating the speaker’s voice from the
surrounding noise can be exhausting.
Detouring. The listener may become distracted by
a phrase or concept and detour toward the
distraction. This distraction then stimulates
thought on another subtopic more interesting
than the central point of the message;
consequently, thoughts detour to the more
interesting topics.
 The debate represents another barrier. A listener
may suddenly find herself disagreeing with the
speaker and begin to plan her rebuttal, she
blocks out the speaker and misses his message.
Time. “I just don’t have time to listen to this” is a
common reaction for managers. Time seems to
drag when people have to listen to something to
which they have no interest. When listening
appears to take too much time, managers tend to
stop listening. One way some terminate listening
is by making a hasty conclusion. This time
pressure may lead to the tendency to judge,
evaluate, approve, or disapprove a person’s
statement too hastily.
Message Noise.
Messages that are perceived as uninteresting or
challenging can dispose some listeners to tune out,
because the information seems too boring or complex.
Emotionally charged words or messages can interfere
with listening because the listeners focus on the
emotions. For example, a witness who becomes
emotional during a trial can distract the jury from the
message conveyed.
Preconceived ideas and prejudices about a given topic
can generate listening resistance if the message
contradicts what the listener believes.
Managers must build a climate that
demonstrates receptivity.
 Managers need to develop a listening climate to
motivate people to open up. Two levels of the
listening climate require attention. The first is
the micro level or the one-on-one situation. The
second level is the macro or total climate.
Micro Listening climate- Demonstrating a
positive climate is most important when a
manager is involved in empathetic listening.
Most people have a very difficult time expressing
their feelings, so an encouraging, supportive,
receptive climate needs to be established.
Managerial strategies include maintaining eye
contact, leaning slightly toward the speaker,
changing facial expression in relationship to the
message and taking notes. All these behaviours
demonstrate a positive listening climate.
Macro Listening Environment- This is
demonstrated by the manager’s demeanor and
style. For instance, much has been said about
managing by wandering around. When managers
are physically available and are not locked away
behind closed office doors, they create an
atmosphere that says, “I am here to listen to
Another technique is to have informal meetings;
‘huddles’ or spontaneous gatherings of a few
people to discuss a problem indicate the manager
wants and needs to listen to employees’ ideas.
Another technique is to keep official titles and
symbols of authority to a minimum. People are
more willing to talk when they don’t feel inferior
to another. In some contemporary organizations,
job titles have not only disappeared from office
doors, but they also have been deleted from
business cards. The implication is that everybody
works together- communicates together- to get
the job done.
Nonverbal communication refers to body
movements or vocal variations that communicate
without words. Non verbal behavior manages and
regulates conversation, displays emotions and
feelings, provides feedback and influences others.
nonverbal behaviours can also communicate to
Kinesic behaviours are the movements we use
to communicate. Kinesic behaviours, such as
leaning or pressing your index finger to your lips
to signal others to be quiet, can regulate
conversation. They can also help us illustrate our
verbal points, reduce anxiety and express
Eye behaviour can certainly communicate emotions,
but it can also facilitate and regulate conversation
and monitor others’ reactions. Imagine that you are at
a department meeting during which you are
scheduled to present report findings. The department
director looks directly at you to signal that it is time
for your presentation. While you are presenting, you
notice the gaze of your colleagues and determine their
level of interest or attention to your message. From a
cultural perspective, direct eye contact is important in
North America because it can signal interest. But in
Japan and some Eastern cultures, direct eye contact
can signal aggressiveness, disrespect or even an
invasion of privacy.
Paralanguage, also referred to as vocalic, involves
vocal sounds other than words. Paralanguage is about
how you say something rather than what the words
mean. In our interactions with others, vocal pitch
(highness or lowness of tone), speech rate (speed),
volume (loudness) and rhythm (timing and emphasis)
can express a variety of meanings. Suppose that when
you present your report to the members of your
department, your speech is hesitant, your rate of
speech is slow, and you repeatedly use vocal
interferences such as “um”, “er”, “uh”, and “like”, “you
know” to fill some of the dead air. Your colleagues
may interpret this paralanguage as insecurity or
limited knowledge of the subject matter.
The study of how people use and perceive time is
known as chronemics. Time is of great importance
in North American culture. In the United States, time
equals money, so the focus is on adherence to
deadlines, schedules, promptness and alacrity when
making points, all facets of monochronic time. From a
monochronic time perspective, arriving ten minutes
late to a job interview may convey a message to the
employer that the applicant is unreliable or
uninterested and may cost the company valuable
time. It is not unusual in the United States and
England for business meetings to begin exactly at the
scheduled time. In Eastern Asia, 20 to 30 minutes
early is common. By contrast, in many Latin
American and Middle Eastern cultures the focus is on
interpersonal relationships and a perception that
everything has its own time. In this polychronic time
orientation, schedules are not strictly observed and
expectations about arrival and departure time are
less rigid. Being 20- 30 minutes late is acceptable
because the pace is more relaxed.
Proxemics is the study of our use of space and
distance. The distance we put between ourselves and
others also reflects feeling and attitudes and thus it
affects communication. For example, distance can
reflect the attitude of the person who does the
positioning. Research shows that a person who
expects an unpleasant message or views the speaker
as unfriendly takes a more distant position than does
someone expecting good news or viewing the speaker
as friendly. An observant communicator can thus use
the distance others choose with respect to him or her
as a basis for hunches about their feelings.
Interpersonal distance is another nonverbal
indicator of power. One unspoken cultural rule is
that the person with higher status generally
controls the degree of approach. This principle of
distance explains why subordinates rarely question
the boss’s right to drop in to their work area
without invitation but are reluctant to approach
their superior’s office even when told the door is
always open.
Touching behaviour is known as haptics.
Nonverbal touching can communicate a variety of
messages, including a formal greeting. Most
business touching consists of formal handshakes,
informal pats on the back and the occasional arm
touch when addressing a co-worker in conversation.
Burbinster sees six functions for nonverbal
 1. Complementing: nonverbal; signals that
complement the verbal message repeat it. Typically,
these signals accompany what is being said. For eg.,
a supervisor welcoming a subordinating back after a
lengthy illness might give him a warm handshake to
stress how pleased he is at the other’s return.
 2. Accenting: those nonverbal signals that accent call
our attention to a matter being discussed. A common
example is a person pounding on a desk as she
makes an important point.
Contradicting: The nonverbal signs that contradict
are less obvious. These are usually sent
unintentionally by the subconscious to say
nonverbally the opposite of what is being said
verbally. Either subtly or obviously, nonverbal cues
will often tell the careful observers the truth when
the verbal cues don’t.
 Repeating: this occurs when we already have sent a
message using one form of communication and wish
to emphasize the point being made. For example, a
demonstration following a verbal description of a
tool’s use is a nonverbal repetition.
Regulating: this occurs during conversations to
signal to our partner to “slow,” “stop”, and even
“wait your turn” and let the other person know that
you are ready to listen or to speak.
 Substituting: when we can’t send a message by
verbal cues, we might choose to use nonverbal onesespecially emblems, to get the point across to our
receiver. A supervisor visiting a loud factory might
use the “OK” sign to signal to an employee.
From a theoretical perspective, nonverbal
communication also serves another important
function: communication redundancy. This concept
refers to the phenomena built into any language
system that combat the effects of noise. It simply
means that much of the meaning of a message can
be deduced from other elements in the message
that have already appeared. The TV show Wheel of
Fortune is an example of redundancy in that not
every word or letter must be on the game board
before one can guess the correct phrase.
A conflict is an event expressed through
communication when individuals or groups
behave in ways that indicate they have
incompatible positions or goals.
 A conflict is a process in which people disagree
over significant issues, thereby creating friction
between parties.
Conflict generally has a negative connotation;
however, conflict is a positive occurrence if managed
properly. Conflict requires managers to analyze their
goals, it creates dialogue among employees and
fosters creative solutions.
Conflict also may foster creativity. Conflict helps to
overcome individual psychological distortions and
biases by forcing people out of their traditional modes
of thinking. In this way, conflict promotes the
unstructured thinking that some see as required for
developing good, novel alternatives to difficult
Studies show a higher decision quality when there is
open opposition and resistance by subordinates than
when the resistance of subordinates is weak or even
The middle ground. Some levels of conflict are
healthy, others are not. Moderate levels of
conflict stimulate creative decision making and
prevent apathy. Very low conflict levels lead to
complacency and stagnation. Extreme levels,
especially if it is based on individual rather than
organizational goals, are detrimental to the
organization, causing dysfunctional behaviour.
The level and type of conflict determine whether
it is beneficial or detrimental to the organization.
Individuals, teams, or departments that are in
conflict and competition may lose sight of the
common goal and focus on winning at any cost.
They withhold important information and
resources from one another and sabotage one
another’s work.
 Distorted judgements lead to lack of cooperation
and even more conflict. When we conflict with
another person or group, we tend to perceive
them negatively, describe them by using
unflattering stereotypes and pay attention only
to negative information.
When conflict leads to winners and losers, losers
are demoralized and demotivated. This loser
effect harms long term relationships and overall
organizational performance.
Intrapersonal conflict is a personal internal
conflict. It occurs because one’s goals, values, or
roles diverge.
 Interpersonal conflict. Refers to conflict that
arises because two or more people who are
required to interact have different goals, values
or styles. This type of conflict can be problematic
for managers because such conflict typically
revolves around personal differences rather than
organizational goals, the potential negative
impact is high.
Intragroup conflict refers to conflict within a work
group over goals and work procedures. This type of
conflict can be extremely detrimental to group
cohesion. The conflict may occur because members
disagree about goals, procedures, and norms, or how
to handle deviants. Some intragroup conflict is
healthy, but when it is intense, unresolved and
unmanaged, intragroup conflict eventually interferes
with a group’s ability to function effectively.
Intergroup conflict occurs when groups within and
outside an organization disagree on issues.
Intergroup conflict is usually about broad
organizational issues such as resource allocation,
access to information, and system related processes.
When faced with a conflict, you have several
choices about how to respond. Each of these
approaches has different results.
 Avoiding (lose-lose situation). One way to deal
with conflict is to avoid it whenever possible and
withdraw when confronted. In some cases
avoidance is physical; refusing to take phone
calls, staying barricaded in the office, and so on.
In other cases, however, avoidance can be
psychological: denying that a problem exists or
that it is serious, repressing emotional reactions,
and so on. Avoidance might have its short term
benefits of preventing a confrontation, but there
are usually long term costs, especially in ongoing
relationships. Despite its drawbacks, avoidance is
sometimes a wise choice.
Accommodating (win-win situation). Whereas
avoiders stay away from conflicts, accommodators
give ground as a way of maintaining harmony. In
many cases, accommodating is hard to defend. It can
be equivalent to appeasement, sacrificing one’s
principles, and putting harmony above dealing with
important issues. Despite the drawbacks of
accommodating, this approach does have merit in
some circumstances. IF you are clearly wrong, then
giving up your original position can be a sign of
strength, not weakness. If harmony is more important
than the issue at hand- especially if the issue is a
minor one- then accommodating is probably justified.
Competing (win-lose situation) is based on the
assumption that the only way for one party to
reach its goals is to overcome the other. Choosing
a competitive style means that a person is
putting his/her interest before anyone else's
 Collaborating means working together to resolve
conflicts. This is based on the assumption that it
is possible to meet one’s own needs and those of
the other person.
Compromising occurs when each party sacrifices
something that he or she sought to gain in an
agreement. People who compromise are likely to
say "let's split the difference" or "something is
better than nothing.
Collective bargaining. Especially in workplace
situations, it is necessary to have agreed mechanisms
in place for groups of people who may be antagonistic
(e.g. management and workers) to collectively discuss
and resolve issues. This process is often called
"collective bargaining", because representatives of
each group come together with a mandate to work out
a solution collectively. Experience has shown that this
is far better than avoidance or withdrawal, and puts
democratic processes in place to achieve "integrative
problem solving", where people or groups who must
find ways of co-operating in the same organization, do
so within their own agreed rules and procedures.
Conciliation. The dictionary defines conciliation as
"the act of procuring good will or inducing a friendly
feeling". South African labour relations legislation
provides for the process of conciliation in the
workplace, whereby groups who are in conflict and
who have failed to reach agreement, can come
together once again to attempt to settle their
differences. This is usually attempted before the more
serious step of a strike by workers or a lock-out by
management is taken; and it has been found useful to
involve a facilitator in the conciliation process.
Similarly, any other organisation (e.g. sports club,
youth group or community organisation) could try
conciliation as a first step.
Three methods of resolving situations that have
reached the stage of open conflict are often used
by many different organizations. It is important
to understand these methods, so that people can
decide which methods will work best for them in
their specific conflict situation:
Negotiation: this is the process where mandated
representatives of groups in a conflict situation
meet together in order to resolve their differences
and to reach agreement. It is a deliberate
process, conducted by representatives of groups,
designed to reconcile differences and to reach
agreements by consensus. The outcome is often
dependent on the power relationship between the
groups. Negotiations often involve compromise one group may win one of their demands and give
in on another. In workplaces Unions and
management representative usually sue
negotiations to solve conflicts. Political and
community groups also often use this method.
Mediation: when negotiations fail or get stuck,
parties often call in and independent mediator.
This person or group will try to facilitate
settlement of the conflict. The mediator plays an
active part in the process, advises both or all
groups, acts as intermediary and suggests
possible solutions. In contrast to arbitration (see
below) mediators act only in an advisory capacity
- they have no decision-making powers and
cannot impose a settlement on the conflicting
parties. Skilled mediators are able to gain trust
and confidence from the conflicting groups or
Arbitration: means the appointment of an
independent person to act as an adjudicator (or
judge) in a dispute, to decide on the terms of a
settlement. Both parties in a conflict have to
agree about who the arbitrator should be, and
that the decision of the arbitrator will be binding
on them all. Arbitration differs from mediation
and negotiation in that it does not promote the
continuation of collective bargaining: the
arbitrator listens to and investigates the
demands and counter-demands and takes over
the role of decision-maker. People or
organizations can agree on having either a single
arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators whom they
respect and whose decision they will accept as
final, in order to resolve the conflict.
Negotiation is the process by which two or more
parties reach a mutually agreeable arrangement
to exchange goods and services. It is one of the
most commonly used, beneficial skills managers
can develop. The global business environment, the
diverse workforce, rapid pace of change, and shift
towards teams and empowerment require
managers to hone their negotiation skills.

Listening - COMMClub