Audiology Associates’ Dr. Peter Marincovich Outlines 12 Strategies for Becoming an Active Listener

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Preparing, Maintaining and Repairing Communications apply universally to everyone when it comes to being an active listener. Dr. Marincovich shares insights on the strategies to become a better listener.

Peter Marincovich, Ph.D., CCC-A

Active listening is a two-way street that must be practiced by both listeners and speakers ...

Sometimes it seems as if everyone is talking but no one is listening. Case in point: a person is trying to talk to a friend while watching a daytime reality TV show, where six people are speaking at the same time. Or, while at a football game, crowd noise blocks what fans are saying to each other. In such scenarios, how much would anyone be able to understand?

These examples may seem extreme, but they reinforce the need for active listening – the ability to grasp what is said while providing positive feedback and seeking clarification. Interference from a variety of sources can impede the communication cycle, and can often lead to misunderstandings, problems in personal relationships and even loss of business.

“Active listening is a two-way street that must be practiced by both listeners and speakers,” according to Michael Marincovich, Ph.D., CCC-A. “It’s especially vital for people with a hearing loss, like me, who must focus intently on what is being said. When it comes to active listening, most of what I’ve learned during 30 years in practice was gleaned from those who came to me with hearing issues.”

After becoming a clinical audiologist, Dr. Marincovich was diagnosed with a tumor in his left ear. Following surgery, he no longer could hear on that side and became increasingly focused on helping others with impaired hearing to communicate effectively.

When people cannot hear clearly they sit closer, maintain eye contact, read lips and body language do other things to understand messages conveyed.

Three listening principles -- Preparing, Maintaining and Repairing Communications -- apply universally to those with and without hearing difficulties. Here are 12 strategies for becoming an active listener:

Preparing to Communicate (PLAN)

1. Proximity: How close are listeners to the person speaking? Is everyone in the same room? Do the speaker and listener see each other’s faces? Are they directly in front of each other?

2. Language: Practice lip-reading, observe facial expressions and read other body clues, which are subliminal, non-verbal language communication components. Rehearse by turning off the TV sound and concentrate on the speaker’s lips.

3. Attention: It is vital to have the speaker’s attention. Often listeners may not be aware that they are being addressed, especially if others are present.

4. Noise: How many distracting sounds are in the room? Is it possible to move to another area, turn down the TV, or shut off noisy equipment?

Maintaining Communication (CAMP)

5. Completeness: While the speaker is talking, determine if he or she has covered six essential points essential in any newsworthy story – the who, what, when, where, why and how of the topic. It takes answers to all six points to complete the information transfer process. This often leads to questions later to fill in missing pieces. (See points 9-12).

6. Animation: Be animated while the speaker is talking to show interest -- nod up and down, smile when appropriate and establish eye contact -- so the speaker can “see” that the listener is paying attention.

7. Main Idea: What is the speaker’s point? Focus on the main idea being conveyed. Listeners should make sure they know exactly what the speaker is talking about. Knowing the core topic eliminates guessing about what is being said and keeps the listener in the flow of the conversation.

8. Premise: What this means is that, as the listener, a person can become so engaged in what the speaker is saying, that he or she might try to finish the speaker’s sentence, or jump ahead to announce the final premise. Interjecting personal notions about how a story will end may not be correct assumptions, but at least they show that the listener is interested– use this technique sparingly.

Repairing Communication (CARE)

9. Clarifying: Given that there may be gaps in a listener’s understanding, if a person is not quite sure what the speaker said, ask targeted questions.

10. Adding: Asking for additional information tells the speaker members of the audience were trying to grasp what was said, and that portions of the presentation were heard.

11. Restating: Mentioning specific facts or details from the talk in a question, reinforces the fact that listeners were engaged.

12. Embellishing: Tell the speaker what was heard, so he or she will not repeat the same details, but rather embellish and elaborate on other parts of the talk.

“Active listening is important in every interaction because listeners need the speaker on their side. If the speaker sees that the listener is actively preparing to communicate, trying to maintain communication, and establishing a system to repair and fill gaps, the speaker will be much more excited and willing to help listeners understand what he or she is talking about,” Dr. Marincovich added.

For more information, visit the website: http://www.audiologyassociates-sr.com/ and click on “Active Listening.”

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John Beilharz
@audioassociates
since: 10/2010
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