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Listening in Everyday Life: A Personal and Professional Approach.

"What we have here is a failure to communicate." Unfortunately, this often-repeated line from the movie Cool Hand Luke could characterize many of the contacts between police officers and the people they encounter. Officers can have perfect aim, possess great physical strength, and convey a commanding presence, but without constructive communication skills, they may be virtually ineffective.

Listening constitutes an important aspect of communication, but one that is often overlooked. For today's police officers, effective listening is especially pertinent as an increasing number of law enforcement agencies move toward more community-oriented policing postures.

Understanding the subtleties of what a witness or suspect is actually saying can mean the difference between making or breaking a case, perhaps even the difference between life and death. It would be easy, but wrong, to assume that listening comes automatically and does not need to be analyzed.

Listening in Everyday Life: A Personal and Professional Approach, an edited text, brings together some of the most productive scholars in the field of listening improvement. The contributing authors collectively work from the premise that human beings have a basic need to understand others and to be understood. This well-documented belief represents the underlying foundation of the book's discussions, which address the frequently neglected, but vitally important, role listening plays in people's personal and professional lives.

The presentation is divided into two main parts, the first of which examines the processes and contexts of listening. The first chapter discusses the overall concept of listening, defines its components, looks at the importance of listening as a communication skill, and examines the predominance of communication time devoted to listening. Other chapters discuss the nuances of intrapersonal and interpersonal listening, gender and cultural issues related to listening, and the role of listening in group settings. The discussion of gender issues provides not only practical insight, but excellent strategies to diminish listening barriers between men and women in various settings. The discussion of intercultural listening explores major factors that influence communication between people of different cultures, a very important consideration in today's increasingly diverse society.

Part two of the book explores listening as it applies to various professions. Although the specific fields discussed range from education to law, much of the information in these chapters is universal and especially relevant when applied to communication skills essential to criminal justice personnel.

Throughout the text, the contributing writers emphasize that listening is not a passive exercise but, rather, a highly active and demanding skill. Each chapter concludes with exercises that allow readers to practice and strengthen their abilities to listen more efficiently, effectively, and accurately.

The ability to understand others is crucial for criminal justice professionals. By enhancing their listening skills, officers can go a long way toward improving their overall communicative abilities. Listening in Everyday Life should be read by those who want to improve their listening, understanding, and communication capabilities. Whether they are addressing a city council budget meeting or gathering information for a report, law enforcement professionals will find that effective listening can be a most valuable resource.

Reviewed by Commander Brad Bennett, D.P.A. South Lake Tahoe, California, Police Department

Manager's Bookshelf is a new, periodic column designed to aquaint readers with books that have been in print for several years or cover topics outside a strict law enforcement focus, which, nonetheless, present information helpful to law enforcement administrators. If you would like to review a book that you believe may be of interest to Bulletin readers, please contact Kim Waggoner, the Bulletin's book review editor, at 703-640-8206.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Bennett, Brad
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1998
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