LISTENING 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 sensitivity. 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 company. DIALOGUE LISTENING 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. DIALOGUE LISTENING 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 listening. PASSIVE LISTENING 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 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. BENEFITS TO LISTENING 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. BARRIERS TO LISTENING 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 response. 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. DEVELOPING A LISTENING ENVIRONMENT 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 you.” 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. NON VERBAL COMMUNICATION 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 customers. TYPES OF NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION 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 emotion. 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 communication. 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. CONFLICT MANAGEMENT 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. BENEFITS OF CONFLICT 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 problems. 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 passive. 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. CONSEQUENCES OF CONFLICT. 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. TYPES AND LEVELS OF CONFLICT 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. APPROACHES TO CONFLICT 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 interests. 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. HOW TO MANAGE AND RESOLVE CONFLICT SITUATIONS 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. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NEGOTIATION, MEDIATION, AND ARBITRATION 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 individuals. 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. MANAGERIAL COMMUNICATION 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.