The Five Ways To Listen
Is it possible to hear and attend to a message without understanding it at all? The answer may surprise you. It is yes. Hearing and listening are completely different, because you could not possibly attend to everything that you hear. Your brain would explode! Listening, unlike hearing, is not automatic. It is a skill, requiring time and experience. To improve on this skill, it is important to know that listening is a process, and consists of five elements. The five elements of the listening process are hearing, attending, understanding, responding, and remembering.
Ronald B. Adler and Russell F. Proctor II define hearing as the physiological dimension of listening (239). When we hear something, sound waves are striking the ear at a certain loudness and frequency (Adler and Proctor 239). A variety of factors have an influence on hearing, including background noise. If something is going on in the background of a conversation, and the noise is at the same frequency as the message we are trying to receive, it makes listening very difficult (Adler and Proctor 239). It also makes it difficult to pick up on important signals coming from the background. For many communicators, hearing is even more difficult due to physiological problems (Adler and Proctor 239). More than 22 million people communicate with some degree of hearing impairment, and that is in the United States alone (Adler and Proctor 239). My dad, for example, experiences increased difficulties hearing my mother and me, as he gets older. A competent communicator needs to be able to recognize when they are speaking with someone with a hearing impairment, and adjust their approach accordingly (Adler and Proctor 239).
In contrast to the physiological process of hearing, attending is a psychological process, and is part of the process of selection (Adler and Proctor 240). Our brains could not handle having to attend to everything we hear, so we filter out certain messages and...