Critical vs Active Listening
A large point of confusion in communication stems from misunderstanding active, critical listening. People think faster than they speak and this accounts for most inattentiveness as audience members often formulate responses, questions, and assume they know what is about to be said.
This is not listening!
Active and critical listening are often defined as two different concepts and for the purpose of disambiguation they are different, but they are also two parts of the same process. Critical listening entails analyzing a message in terms of accuracy, meaning, logic, and value. Active listening is the process of purposely listening with the intent to understand and retain information from a speaker on simply speaking trying to hear and understand the message.
Listeners often erroneously believe they are listening when in fact they are formulating arguments based on assumed information. Understanding this problem allows the listener to become an active listener by ceasing in forming arguments and rebuttals by concentrating on listening. As such, the listener becomes a critical listener who takes notes and pays attention so as not to waste time with poorly assumed ideas.
While this seems a simple practice to implement, critical and active listening is difficult because of the natural ability to think faster than the speaker. This is tremendously important in the team environment because there will be times with multiple are discussing a point and if you are assuming information with each person you will miss something or cause other issues such as appearing uninterested. The rules for active listening are the same for individuals as for groups: pay attention, keep focus with eye contact, allow speakers to finish what they say, take notes to formulate questions, create feedback at the end of the presentation, and don’t judge or assume anything before it is said.
Most important, don’t be a jerk by appearing bored! (Even if you are.)