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Importance Of Listening
Listening is an important aspect in projects, since active listening contributes in obtaining useful feedback from stakeholders. Listening implies understanding the opinion of external and internal stakeholders. This information is vital for the preparation of project plans. Therefore, efforts should be directed towards mitigating the factors that inhibit listening. Opportunities to obtain information are lost when we are not actively listening. The mind is not involved fully when we are not listening, and its closure implies obstruction to useful information. Diversions like computers, television, phones, etc inhibit listening. Even during the process of listening, our mind is occupied in other thoughts, due to which listening is not effective.
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Factors That Inhibit Listening, And To How Overcome Them
There are many factors that inhibit listening. It is essential to understand the causes for not listening, and develop suitable strategies to overcome these factors. Following are important factors that inhibit listening, and the approach to overcome these inhibitions is explained with each factor:
Strong Belief In Our Values
We have a strong believe that our opinion is correct, and are not prepared for any change. Thus, we are inclined to relate stakeholder feedback to our opinion, and reject everything that is not consistent with our values. We have built a strong bond to our beliefs, and always tend to support them. Holding a firm bond to our opinion is among the foremost obstacles to listening. We should listen to others with full concentration, and then make the judgment according to our analysis.
When complete information is not provided, we ourselves tend to interpret the incomplete message. Such interpretation may not be totally correct. This hindrance can be managed by requesting additional details, when the message is considered to be incomplete. We can easily understand routine issues without comprehensive clarifications, but the crucial subjects need to be managed more carefully. We should decrease, or remove the bonds to our beliefs.
External issues, and the numerous thoughts being processed in our minds easily divert us. The external distractions include extreme temperatures, sound, telephone, conversation by other people, smoking, etc, while the internal disruptions are our recollections, decisions, optimism, suspicions, etc. Concentrating towards the speaker may mitigate both the external and internal concerns.
Body language has an important function during listening, and will be a strong barrier if it is not appropriate according to the occasion. The emotions of the speaker should not be unnecessary, or excessive, otherwise the message may be misinterpreted.
The communication approach should be in accordance with the occasion. Simple communications may be expressed orally during routine project interactions, while written letters are recommended for complex issues.
Use of difficult words is a great barrier towards effective listening, since the receiver may not be able to understand the real message. The recipient should easily understand the spoken language. Message will be clear if the formation of sentences is simple.
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One of the major barriers to listening is diverse levels of education, experience, and intelligence of the listeners. Words rarely communicate the same significance to all the listeners. The words being used will not be understood correctly, unless the listeners possess similar level of education and experience. Therefore, the difference in level of education and experience should be realized, and message is delivered accordingly.
Generalization should not be excessive, and is considered a barrier to effective listening. The risk of generalization is that the real meaning of the speaker may not be communicated to the listener. When such vocabulary is being used, use of examples will be helpful. Generalization may not convey the precise stakeholder needs and expectations, due to which project scope may not be precisely defined.
Information About Feedback
Some listeners may feel that they already know the complete contents of the feedback, and this erroneous thought will be a barrier to effective listening. The listener, without its completion, may conclude the sentences of the speaker. Respect to others is a vital aspect of listening. The listener should have a responsive attitude, and must look for occasions to improve knowledge while listening.
Attempting To Be Cooperative
Another major barrier to listening is when we attempt to be helpful by excessive interference, with the aim to assist the speaker. Such interference is not useful, and is barrier to listening, because the speaker is unable to deliver the complete message. Interference should be only to the extent that is essential.
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Why Remove Listening Barriers
Effective communication is an essential element of project management, and is applied throughout the project life cycle, starting from initiation till project closure. Therefore, barriers to effective listening should be identified, and suitable measures must be undertaken for their removal. It is not difficult to identify the factors that inhibit listening, and only requires deliberate efforts to fulfill this important task. Communication between stakeholders and the project management team is a vital process for project success.
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- Mind Biz, How to grow a business, http://www.mindbiz.com.au/communication.htm
- British Council, How to be an effective listener, http://www.britishcouncil.org/professionals-work-interpersonal2-2.htm
- Image Credit: freedigitalphotos.net/Jeroen van Oostrom