0708- The Art of Listening and Using the Telephone

Background reading material for Year 2 Semester 2 medical student PPSD on Wednesday 29th August 2007 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. 


Listening activity involves comprehension and 3 transactional processes (direct feed-back, indirect feed-back, and delayed feed-back). Listening can be active or passive. In active listening the listener shows obvious interest and asks questions. An active listener must ask questions to understand. The questions should seek clarifications or additional information. Questions that pre-empt the speaker or that are hypothetical should be avoided. Questions remove ambiguity and create clarity. The speaker can not know whether a passive listener is following or not. Listening can be empathic or critical. Empathic listening could be active or passive. Critical listening involves appreciation and discrimination and is always active.



Improve your listening skills in face-to-face communication. Analyze your listening behavior, analyze the speaker’s style and analyze the message and see how they relate to your listening behavior. The following behaviors or attributes of the speaker can improve listening: appropriate rate of speaking, fluency, visibility, credibility, likability, and similarity in values with listeners. The message can encourage better listening if it is clear, organized, and is captive.


As a listener you can improve your listening in various ways. Talk less and listen more. Clear your mind of other matters before start of the conversation and give undivided attention to the speaker. Let the speaker know you are listening. Write notes. Ask open-ended questions for clarification and also for encouragement of the speaker. Give feed-back. Summarize or paraphrase some of what the speaker says. Be open-minded and not judgmental. While listening avoid the mistake of confusing content with feelings. Separate and deal with each accordingly knowing that each is important. Do not verbally or by use of body language show the speaker that he is ignorant or crazy. Do not be too argumentative even if you do not agree with the speaker. Listen, then think, then respond, and then comprehend.



The following are barriers to effective listening: weak extrinsic motivation, personal constraints, environmental constraints, and poor timing of the message. Whenever any of these situations arise, it is better to stop the communication process in a polite non-offensive way and resume at some other time.



When using the telephone, start with a pleasant but short greeting. Establish rapport immediately. Project a positive and credible image at the beginning; this will facilitate further conversation. Speak with a powerful and confident voice. Sound interested and motivated. Be brief and get to the point immediately. Pause and allow for responses. There are words and expressions used in face-to-face communication that will lead to misunderstandings in a telephone conversation because there is no supporting body language. Train yourself to signal that you want to end the conversation without offending your listener. You must learn technics appropriate to your culture of cutting off a rambling caller tactfully. When an angry, aggressive, and obnoxious person calls you, be careful not to get emotional. Listen him out and ask clarifying questions to understand his motives then act appropriately. It is always better to end such a talk quickly and plan a follow-up at a later time when the caller may be in a better emotional situation.

ŠProfessor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. August 2007