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Home Up Speaking to Inform Communication Affects on Life The Process of Communication Listening One-to-One Communication Group Discussions Building Confidence Preparing Your Speech Delivering Your Speech


Lesson Objectives:

  • Explain the difference between hearing and listening.
  • Barriers to effective listening.
  • Describe several responsibilities of an active listener.
  • Identify several ways to improve you ability to analyze and interpret a message.

What is Listening?

Like most people, you probably think a good communicator is someone who can speak well.  Speaking, however, is just part of the total process of communication.  In order for speakers to get their message across, someone must also be listening.

Listening is not an easy task.  Everyone does not know how to listen effectively.  Effective listening involves more than just hearing, or the reception of sound.  To be a good listener you must also understand and interpret sound in a meaningful way.  A good deal of thinking must go on in effective listening.  When messages are misunderstood, it is easy to blame the speaker, however, the listener must also share in the responsibility.  The average person misses about 75 percent of what he or she hears.

Listening effectively takes skill, self-motivation, and practice.  Effective listening means concentrating on what the speaker says rather than on how it is said.

Reasons for Learning Effective Listening
**You will avoid Misunderstandings.  You will be able to avoid misunderstandings by becoming an active listener.  You will also be able to do things right the first time when you listen effectively.  Problems are solved quicker by being an "active listener".

You Will Get Along Better with Others.  Listening actively will show that you sincerely care.  It is a very high compliment when you listen to others, because it gives the speaker the sense of self worth and confidence.

You Will Learn More About the World.  Television, radio, and conversations with adults and peers aid in your understanding your immediate environment and the world in general.  The more knowledge you gain, the more you will enjoy the things around you.

You Will Be More Successful in School and on the Job.  Your grades and interest in school activities will increase as a result of effective listening.  These good listening skills will also effect your future (i.e. getting the job and salary you want all come about by listening).  Many jobs require good listening skills such as telephone operators, nurses, doctors, auto mechanics, teachers, lawyers, etc.

Recognizing Barriers To Listening

Noise: Anything that blocks or distorts the message that a speaker is trying to get across to the listener is a barrier to the communication process.  These barriers can be sounds of traffic, machinery, a dance band, etc.
Distractions:  Anything that turns the attention of the listener is a distraction.  It may be environmental, a radio or television playing, or even the temperature of the room.
Daydreaming:  Daydreaming is an internal distraction.  This is when your mind wanders off and you miss most of what the speaker is saying.  A speaker articulates about the rate of 150 words per minute.  Listeners can understand at a rate of 380 words per minute.  Listeners can often complete a sentence that a speaker is saying mentally before the sentence is actually complete.
Close-mindedness:  People who refuse to expose themselves to ideas that are different from their own are basically close-minded.  An open-minded person does more listening than speaking.  This person may hold an opinion, but will listen to another's opinion.  A good listener should be open-minded.
Overemphasizing the Source:  This is when the listener is only influenced by their feelings about the speaker or the speaker's reputation, and they don't listen to what is said.
Listening Only to What Is Easy to Understand: If you become accustomed to "turning off" whenever you become confused, it won't belong before this behavior becomes a habit.

Becoming An Active Listener

To become a good listener takes hard work!!!  You must actively do your part to make sure you get the most out of your listening experience.  This are things you can do to be an "Active Listener".

Prepare to Listen: In order to hear and understand everything a speaker has to say, you must be ready to listen from the beginning.  This means arriving early, getting sufficient rest, or finding out as much about the speaker's topic before you arrive.
Expand Your Vocabulary:  Increasing your vocabulary will help you understand better and benefit more from what you hear.  Since words are symbols that a speaker uses to convey ideas.  The listener must be familiar with the vocabulary that the speaker uses in order to understand what is being conveyed.
Apply the Message to Yourself:  As an active listener, you must also apply the speaker's message to yourself as you listen.  Try to look for circumstances that you could use the information that you're hearing.  Ask the following questions when hearing a speech.

  • Do I believe what the speaker is saying?
  • How can I put this information to use?
  • Do I feel differently about this subject than the speaker does?

Pick Out the Central Ideas:  Listeners should pick out the key ideas or central ideas.  The main ideas or central ideas are often mentioned at the beginning and near the end of the speech, thus pay close attention to the introduction and the conclusion of a speech.  The rest of the speech develops these central ideas by giving supporting reasons.
Provide Feedback:  Good listeners will always "encourage" the speaker by providing feedback.  They do this by actively responding to what they hear.  Smiles, frowns, laughs, and nodding of heads help the public speaker know the listeners are following what is being said.
Remember What You Hear:  One of the main reasons for learning to be a better listener is to acquire new information.  It is important that you remember what you hear, and this is done if you have a strong reason to remember it (example:  remembering information that will be on a test).

Critical Listening and Thinking

A critical listener is one who analyzes and interprets messages carefully.  Your ability to analyze and interpret a message correctly depends upon how carefully how listen for what is "behind" the speaker's words.

As a critical thinker, you should do the following:

Listen for Faulty Reasoning:  Listen for such techniques as:

  • Logical fallacies-When a speaker seems to be giving you the facts, but is really misleading you through false reasoning.
  • Name calling-a term used for the faulty reasoning involved when a speaker gives a person or idea a bad label without providing any evidence to prove what is said.
  • Card stacking-a method whereby the speaker tells the audience only those facts that support the point he or she is trying to make.  The speaker purposely leaves out the bad aspects or "cons".
  • Bandwagon technique-This is where the speaker tries to convince you to "buy into" a product or service because "everyone" is.
  • Testimonials -the opinion of a well known person on a particular subject.
  • Begging the question- when speakers never prove the points they are trying to make.

Consider the Source:  Consider who is giving the speech.  Considering the source means learning to distinguish between the facts and opinions.  Some speakers give their opinions and try to present them as facts.  This is called propaganda, when is stating of one's opinions as though they were proven facts.

Recognize Nonverbal Cues:  In order to accurately interpret a message, observe the speaker's non verbal communication.  A good speaker uses gestures, facial expressions, and a tone of voice that support and reinforce the verbal message.