IN SOCIAL INTERACTION THE process of listening is of crucial importance. As Mark Twain observed: 'If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.' In order to respond appropriately to others, we must pay attention to the messages they are sending and link our responses to these. In Chapter 3 it was noted that the average person does not actually speak for long periods in each day, and indeed several studies into the percentage of time spent in different forms of communication have found listening to be the predominant interpersonal activity. Adults spend about 70 per cent of their waking time communicating (Adler et al., 2001). Of this, on average 45 per cent of communication time is spent listening, 30 per cent speaking, 16 per cent reading and 9 per cent writing. In the work context, for the average employee these figures have been calculated as 55 per cent listening, 23 per cent speaking, 13.3 per cent reading and 8.4 per cent writing, but for managers the listening figure increases to 63 per cent (Wolvin and Coakley, 1996).
The importance of listening is now widely recognised across many contexts. For example, in the business sphere, Stewart and Cash (2000:39) reported how:
Surveys of hundreds of corporations in the United States have revealed that poor listening skills are a major barrier in nearly all positions from accountants to supervisors; good listening skills are considered critical to entry-level positions, effective performance, high productivity, managerial competency, and promotion within most organizations.