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The Importance of Listening in Accounting

Discuss about the Communication Skills and Strategies for Improvement.

Human beings are intrinsically social beings. As such, they (human beings) communicate with each other so as to exchange certain information. Communication can assume various forms. In other words, communication can be verbal, written or non-verbal although the use of either depends on some factors which include; the context, interlocutors involved in a communicative exchange as well as the aim for the exchange (Erozkan, 2013, p. 741). Effective communication, however, must take into consideration the aspects of communication skills. Communication skills can be perceived as some of the vital, simplest and useful tools of communication that are applicable in various fields (Erozkan, 2013, p. 740). In regard to this paper, therefore, the notion that communication skills are essential to excel in any discipline or field will be discussed. In so doing, the paper thus focuses on three interpersonal skills that include; listening, feedback and questioning and how their benefits can be applied in the field of accounting.

Ideally, listening as a communication skill precedes feedback and questioning. Usually, those engaged in communication listen for such purposes as gaining information, understanding, and learning or even for enjoyment (Ferrari-Bridgers, Vogel and Lynch, 2015, p. 4-5). Moreover, the feedback or questions posed by a listener are determined by what he/she may have heard from the speaker. Thus, the notion underpinned by this aspect is that active listening is necessary for a conversation. Active listening does not only entail hearing what is said but also understanding the message passed across. For this reason, one is obliged to pay attention to the speaker. According to Ferrari-Bridgers, Vogel and Lynch (2015, p. 9) listening is an active process that assumes certain elemental stages. Firstly, listening requires hearing. In this case, the listener listens to what the speaker says. The second stage is the understanding stage where the listener conceptualizes what he/she has heard. The listener, therefore, interprets the message according to their understanding. Third, is the judgment stage. In this stage, the listener gauges whether what was said makes sense.

For communication to be considered effective, the receiver must be a good listener (Brink and Costigan, 2015, p. 211). That is, one must give full attention to the speaker, have open mind and remain focused, allow turn taking in a conversation, listening before providing feedback, capture both minor and main ideas and ask questions where and when necessary. Through active listening, the listener can understand both surface and deep meaning of a give message. It also helps one to perceive the intended message thus avoiding confusion and misunderstanding.

The Value of Feedback in Accounting

Roberston (2005, p. 1053) argues that listening skill is one of the soft skills for accountants. As an accountant one ought to communicate effectively with colleagues and clients thus listening is as important as speaking. Since accounting and the field of business require maximum interaction between the professional and the clients, listening skill is integral in such a context (Evans, 2015, p.38). For instance, one may meet a customer to discuss business ideas. The professional should give the client adequate time to share their opinions before he/she provides a response. This promotes understanding between the two parties and is essential to the profession since listening rules out unnecessary judgments.

Typically, when two or more people are involved in a communicative context, there is always the speaker and the listener. Logically, while one person is talking the other(s) listen and also provide feedback when necessary. As a matter of fact, the aspect of feedback is inevitable in the sense that it is a skill that dominates communication exchange. Feedback is relayed in different ways that include and not limited to tone, words used, silences or body language (Ragland and Ramachandran, 2014, p.119).  Whilst communication is inescapably an interactive experience it is defined by giving and receiving of Feedback. Feedback can be positive or negative. Whereas a positive feedback may encourage a speaker to continue talking, a negative feedback may dissuade the speaker from engaging in the communication. It may also result to disillusionment of one party hence discontinuation of a conversation (Ragland and Ramachandran, 2014, p. 120).

Effective feedback is characterized by numerous factors. For instance, feedback should be based on clarity. In other words, feedback should not be ambiguous so as to ensure that the receiver understands it. It should also be specific as well as descriptive rather than evaluative. The feedback giver should also own the feedback, for example, by use of personal pronoun. Provision of feedback benefits the listener, the speaker and the organization at large. Feedback is fundamental in various fields and has numerous advantages (Klibi and Oussii, 2013, p. 129). Accounting is also not an exception of the benefits of feedback. Within the field of accounting, feedback is deemed essential in that it can and do play a vital role in the implementation of an organization's goals, strategies and also assists in learning. For instance, within an organization, accountability (especially financial accountability) requires substantial cooperation among the personnel involved. As a result, feedback becomes paramount in that the personnel ought to work interdependently. Feedback is also important where the workers within a given organization have to provide reports to the senior(s) (Siriwardane and Durden, 2014, p. 130).

The Role of Questioning in Accounting

Questioning is at the heart of effective communication and exchange of information. Questioning in communication is important when one seeks for clarity, understanding or when one requires more information. However, it should be noted that questioning must be relevant to the topic of discussion. According to Boyle et al, (Boyle et al. 2014, p. 40) use of correct and relevant questions in a given situation helps improve the entire range of communication skills. For instance, questioning helps in building stronger relationships, learning as well as enabling better management of people.  Some of the major categories of questions that promote effective communication include; open and closed questions, funnel questions, probing questions, rhetorical questions, and leading questions (Evans, 2015, p. 38). Although the type of questioning depends on the context of communication, different types of questions play different roles. In general, therefore, questions assists in managing and coaching, learning, building relationship, avoiding misunderstandings, persuasion and defusing a heated situation.

Questioning as a form of communication skills is equally important in the field of accounting just like other skills. In performing certain tasks pertaining to accounting, accounting personnel is involved in a number of tasks such as drafting letters, making interpretation, preparation of reports, making decisions among other tasks (Jackson, 2014, p. 27). These tasks may be performed by more than one party thus they must work together. In essence, questioning is paramount to ensure that there is adequate coordination. In addition, communication skills open doors for professionals thus enhancing professional development for employees. Jackson, (2014, p. 31) also argues that communication skills also help in preparing the accounting professionals for greater opportunities such as promotion, engaging in international accounting affairs and performance of various tasks. In order to communicate about changes, information and results regarding financial statements, accounting professionals must possess excellent communication skills. 

In conclusion, it is inarguable that effective communication skills are crucial in any business dealing with outsiders and employees. Since accounting is central to any form of business, excellent communication skills are necessary for this sector. Some of the chief financial tasks, for example, bill paying; recording of income, reporting and budget preparation ought to be presented to the management and the relevant bodies within a business organization. Consequently, these tasks cannot be executed without observing some of these interpersonal communication skills. Understanding the benefits of effective communication skills ensures that companies focus on the development of a workforce that is ready to keep contact with the clients and other partners.

References

Boyle, D. M., Mahoney, D. P., Carpenter, B. W., and Grambo, R. J. (2014). The Importance of Communication Skills at Different Career Levels. The CPA Journal, 84(8), 40.

Brink, K. E., and Costigan, R. D. (2015). Oral communication skills: Are the priorities of the workplace and AACSB-accredited business programs aligned?. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 14(2), 205-221.

Erozkan, A. (2013). The Effect of Communication Skills and Interpersonal Problem Solving Skills on Social Self-Efficacy. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice, 13(2), 739-745.

Evans, L. (2015). Communication skills: A word to the wise. PS Post Script, (Jul 2015), 38.

Ferrari-Bridgers, F., Vogel, R., and Lynch, B. (2015). Fostering and assessing critical listening skills in the speech course. International Journal of Listening, 1-14.

Jackson, D. (2014). Business graduate performance in oral communication skills and strategies for improvement. The International Journal of Management Education, 12(1), 22-34.

Klibi, M. F., and Oussii, A. A. (2013). Skills and attributes needed for success in accounting career: Do employers’ expectations fit with students’ perceptions? Evidence from Tunisia. International Journal of Business and management, 8(8), 118-132.

Ragland, L.,  and Ramachandran, U. (2014). Towards an understanding of excel functional skills needed for a career in public accounting: Perceptions from public accountants and accounting students. Journal of Accounting Education, 32(2), 113-129.

Roberston, K. (2005). Active listening: more than just paying attention. Australian family physician, 34(12), 1053.

Siriwardane, H. P.,  and Durden, C. H. (2014). The communication skills of accountants: what we know and the gaps in our knowledge. Accounting Education, 23(2), 119-134.

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