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Listen Carefully

Even before we are born, we listen. It is the first language skill we acquire and it’s one that affects every aspect of our life1.

Different situations require different types of listening. For example, enjoying music requires appreciation, while listening to a lecture requires the gathering of information. Listening to a politician can require both critical listening to weigh up the arguments, and discriminative listening to evaluate the consistency between what is being said and how it is being said1. In our relationships with loved ones, showing understanding is important and there are times when family and friends will rely on our empathetic listening to help them through difficult times1,2
Research has shown that people tend to have a predominant listening style that will make them better at certain types of listening and less competent at others. For example, some of us are more interested in the person to whom we’re listening, while others are more interested in capturing the content as quickly as possible. A more sensitive, people-oriented style of listening (found more in women than men) is an advantage when empathetic listening is needed3.

Having a strong support network of family and friends is important for people with Osteoarthritis4 and empathetic listening can help ensure the network stays strong.
Consciousness of listening can help us become better listeners in all situations. Consciousness of tone of voice can help make us more discriminative listeners1 and consciousness of another person’s pain and their need for support, can help make us more empathetic listeners5. While empathetic listening can be uncomfortable at times for the listener, it can also be an enriching experience5.

Even if we’re simply listening to a favourite piece of music, it makes sense to ‘listen carefully’.
  1. Wolvin AD. 21st Centruey Communication: A Reference Handbook. Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE 2009;137-147.
  2. Victorian Government, Better Health Channel. Relationships and communication.
  3. Salisbury R, Chen G-M. Intercultural Communication Studies XVI; 1 2007;251-262.
  4. Victorian government, Better Health Channel. Osteoarthritis.
  5. Victorian government, Better Health Channel. Grief – how to support the bereaved.
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