This is the second of several posts written by some of my top Small Group Communication students at Azusa Pacific University. They’ve been learning all about what makes groups and teams great, and I’ve selected just a few excellent posts that will benefit my readers. Enjoy!
Are You Listening?
By: Megan Ramirez, Sophomore Communication Studies Major at Azusa Pacific University
Oftentimes we get frustrated in committee meetings and group settings. The entire process is chaotic: people are speaking, but nothing is being said.
Individuals feel as if they are not being heard as they present new ideas for themes of the upcoming months, which songs to play for worship on which days, or which scriptures should be the focus for any given time period or service. In the end, groups often collectively feel as if nothing has been accomplished during the entire conversation.
What we may not realize in the midst of attempting to communicate effectively is that communication is more than speaking, being heard, and getting our point across.
We must listen.
One thing that causes a lack of effective communication within a group is competitive listening.
We may think we are listening attentively as our fellow committee-members speak, but we may not be listening for what they have to offer. We are, instead, listening to an individual speak and attentively paying close attention to when they are going to pause so that we can interject our own input.
This begins a vicious cycle.
One person gets cut off from their train of thought and what s/he was trying to contribute to discussion. Another person then takes over and starts on a different train of thought in an attempt to contribute to the discussion. The first person tries to occupy the stage once again, and the cycle goes on.
Soon, the goal becomes to have the floor rather than to allow all group members to equally contribute and to come together on how to best accomplish their goals and make decisions.
However, once a continuous and healthy flow of communication – both the sending and receiving of messages – begins, chaos starts to recede and synergy starts to arise. To do so, people must be given an opportunity to speak while the rest of the group actively listens, remaining open and receptive to what they have to say.
Some ways to listen actively are to:
- Encourage all group members to express their opinions and feelings
- Clarify significant points that are confusing
- Resist the temptation to interrupt
- Make an honest effort to understand the point of view that is in opposition to your own
By listening well, your group can achieve synergy, coming to a conclusion far better than the most creative and informed member could have come to on their own.
Therefore, ask yourself.
Are you listening?
P.S. My new ebook BURST is now available on Amazon Kindle and Apple Bookstore. Of course, it’s also available for free when you sign up for email updates. But, if you don’t want to give that to me, you can buy it now and read it on your Kindle (or Kindle app on other devices).