The Importance of Listening
Bad listening habits are observed by people around us on a daily basis – and even we may be guilty of practicing them as well. When we listen to a speaker, do we often reject the subject out of hand as being “not interesting enough?” Or do we pass judgement on the speaker based on his mannerisms or delivery, thus not paying attention to the content of his speech? On the other hand, we might get too carried away by the topic of the speech and fail to be critical listeners. Do we listen mainly for facts, or do we predominantly look for testimonials or even entertainment instead? Do we attempt to outline the entire content of the speech? Are we just pretending to pay attention to the speaker? Do we permit distractions to prevent us from listening? Do we dodge difficult portions of the speech? Do highly emotional trigger words have the ability to agitate us to the point that we become very hostile? And do we just daydream throughout the speech, wasting both our time and that of the speaker’s?
Bad habits such as these prevent us from taking advantage of someone’s efforts to communicate to us. And bad listening habits are also responsible for creating terrible mind maps. How can you create a mind map that makes sense to you if you were not able to listen to the flow of the speaker’s ideas? How can you know where one idea links up with another to form a certain relationship if you fail to listen well? And if you do not know how to listen well, how can you learn to communicate the same ideas to other people when they ask you about it?
A mind map is only as good as the creator’s ability to form relationships between concepts. To understand relationships between concepts, you have to listen closely and find out where one relationship ends and another begins. And to become a good speaker yourself, you must first be able to listen to how the source of your knowledge imparted his ideas then attempt to replicate the process. And part of replicating that process is creating a good mind map on which you can base your own presentation.
The ARCURRC Model of Listening
Buzan outlines the steps of the listening process in his ARCURRC model. Looking through this model allows you to zero in on any of the steps that you may be deficient in or experiencing problems in so that you can attempt to improve your listening habits. The ARCURRC model is broken down into seven steps, namely: Assimilation, Recognition, Comprehension, Understanding, Retention, Recall, and Communication (or Use.)
Assimilation pertains to the joint physical capacity of your ears and your brain to hear and grasp the sounds in your environment. If you feel that you might have a problem with assimilation, it might help if you were to undergo a thorough hearing exam to rule out problems with your hearing. Even people who have no doubts about their ability to hear and grasp sounds might find it beneficial to have such an exam done since they would then definitely know if they are at the normal level – and if they can surpass that level.
Recognition talks about the capacity of your mind to decode sounds and their meaning which has been received by your ears. It gives a base level at which your mind can identify a particular sound as being caused by a certain object – such as words coming from a person, music coming from a radio, or the sound of an engine being revved up. Recognition is an ability we develop quite quickly in early childhood but that we may fail to practice as we grow up because we tend to “tune out” background sounds. You can keep your power of recognition if you keep trying to identify the source and nuances of different sounds – practice makes perfect.
Comprehension is the capacity of your mind to precisely interpret the information that is fed to it. Some people might have a problem with the internal structures connecting their hearing apparatus to their brain, which would explain why they find it hard to comprehend sounds and their meaning. It could also be traced to a problem within the brain itself. This would require a diagnosis by a doctor.
Understanding is concerned with the ability of your mind to form a relationship between information that has undergone assimilation, recognition and comprehension to previously-absorbed knowledge that is now stored in its memory banks. Good listeners try to continuously stay alert about their level of understanding and improve on this skill.
Retention indicates the capacity of your brain to keep previously-heard knowledge in its memory banks. If you find it hard to retain information, you might want to work on your capacity to understand. This would entail structuring and restructuring concepts as they are being communicated to you. In the end, you will be able to find it easier to store information in your memory – or improve your retention.
Recall is also an aspect of memory, as we previously mentioned, and represents the capacity of your mind to draw out stored knowledge from its memory banks. You improve recall by structuring ideas in better ways as you absorb them, just like when you want to improve retention.
The last phase of the listening process is Communication, or Use. In this stage, the information which you have assimilated, recognized, comprehended, understood and retained is then recalled and may be employed for delivering your own message to other people. You communicate with other people either through spoken, written, or representational means. If you want to talk to yourself – yes, this is also Communication – you simply think. A good listener can eventually become a good communicator to other people as well.
As we said before, it is important to have good listening skills if you want to produce good mind maps. A good listener is able to absorb the content of a speaker’s message more effectively, can comprehend such ideas better, and is in a better position to create a good mind map since he knows how the different ideas are interrelated to one another based on the speaker’s presentation and on how he connects the speaker’s ideas to the knowledge in his own memory. The mind map that results from this will make more sense not only to the person creating it but also to the people who will have a chance to look at it.