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Unit 10 Effective Listening Skills

Objectives:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Define the process of listening. Explain barriers to effective listening. Explain methods for improving listening skills. Complete a listening skills survey. Participate is a listening activity.

Key Terms:
Listening

If speaking is silver, then listening is gold. -- Turkish Proverb

The principle of listening, someone has said, is to develop a big ear rather than a big mouth. -- Howard G. Hendricks

Before we get into the techniques of effective listening, lets define what we mean by the word listening. Listening - the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages. Without a doubt, listening is an activity that most of us are not really taught how to do effectively. We tend to be overly concerned with the outgoing sounds, rather than the incoming signals -- for thats what they are. Listening is as important, maybe even more important, than speaking. Without proper listening skills it is difficult to communicate effectively with others. Weve all met the person who talks a mile a minute and doesnt really want to hear what others have to say. Is this person actually communicating? The answer is NO. If you do all of the talking and never listen, you will never really communicate very well with others. In this unit we will investigate effective listening skills, barriers to effective listening, and methods of improving our own listening skills.

Barriers to Effective Listening


Daydreaming Many people daydream when they are supposed to be listening. Instead of focusing on the speaker and attempting to learn something -- or even mentally composing a response to what is being said -- they will think about a party from last weekend or an upcoming camping trip. Daydreaming effectively closes down the possibility of retaining information. If the speaker is being paid to present information to you, time and money is being wasted. Mentally Arguing with the Speaker Instead of listening to what someone is saying, a poor listener will disagree mentally and think about a rebuttal. People will actually play out a complete argument in their own mind at the same time they should be paying attention to what the other person is really trying to say. This kind of mental arguing is very damaging to the communication process and will often lead to misunderstanding and conflicts between people. The effective listener will wait until the speaker is totally finished with hir or her statement before making an evaluation or judgement prior to responding. Desire to Talk The most common barrier to effective listening is jumping into a conversation before the other person has finished. This includes talking loudly to others in the audience. This is conversational bad manners. It is intrusive and disruptive. Granted, most of us feel more involved and active when we are talking. Even so, its always good manners to remember that listening is just as important as talking. Lack of Interest Lack of interest in the speakers topic does create a difficult situation. How does the saying go? Deal with it. Good listeners try to find useful information in any presentation or message. A listener with a negative attitude about the message or the speaker will have a tough time being effective as a listener. A good way to increase listening effectiveness is to maintain a positive attitude about the speaker and really work at listening for useful information. Negative Reaction to the Speakers Appearance or Delivery Style Some listeners are quick to find fault, any fault, with the speakers dress, voice, or mannerisms. This tendency to hasty judgement makes it difficult to concentrate on the message the speaker is trying to deliver. This happens frequently with radio personalities. Often, a speakers looks are totally different from that implied by the sound of the voice. The old adage, you cant judge a book by its cover, applies here. Because someone appears odd, different, or doesnt match with the mental image you had conjured up, doesnt mean that the message will be ineffective or unrewarding. Keep an open mind when listening to people -- you may be surprised at what you learn. 2

To get the most from a speakers presentation you must listen carefully and avoid making hasty judgements. (You might even learn something!)

Methods of Improving Your Listening Skills


Improving your listening skills requires commitment and effort. The payoff will be well worth it. You will learn more, comprehend more, and be a better communicator -- listening or speaking. Key Points for Effective Listening 1. When its your turn to listen -- Stop Talking! People cannot talk and listen at the same time -- it does not work! 2. Identify with the Speaker This means putting yourself in the speakers place. Try to really understand the speakers view point. What is the motivation behind the message? How do his or her views match up with yours? What is the speakers agenda? 3. Ask Questions When you ask questions, two good things happen: First, it fuels your own interest level. If you are in the presence of a good speaker, meaningful questions should bring you some significant added information. Second, your questions may encourage the speaker to expand on the topic of the speech. Be careful not to ask too many questions. This could make you look like you are trying to dominate the speaker, and other members in the audience may become irritated. Nevertheless, dont be afraid to ask the questions that need to be asked. If you have a question, chances are that others in the group have the same question. 4. Concentrate Focus all of your attention on the speaker and the message being delivered. Being able to concentrate is definitely a skill -- one that we all need in todays information rich world.

5. Show the speaker that you want to listen This applies primarily to one-on-one or small group discussions. Look and act interested in the speakers comments. Listen to understand. Reserve your arguments until its your turn to speak.With this approach, most speakers will actually communicate directly with you as they present their message. This will make the listening experience much more meaningful to you. 6. Control your emotions and your temper Uncontrolled emotions and/or temper can cause misunderstanding when you are trying to listen. If you allow your feelings to interfere with your rationality your listening skills will nosedive and your comprehension will be reduced. Also, it is unlikely that you will retain the attention of the speaker (see item 5, above). 7. Eliminate distractions Avoid fidgeting with pens, notebooks, or other stuff. If its your responsibility to handle audience control, close the door to reduce outside noises. Make sure everyone in the audience is seated, quiet, and paying attention. It is difficult to concentrate on a presentation when there are distractions from others in the room. Typically, etiquette dictates that people should not enter or leave the room after the speaker has started speaking. This practice may vary depending on the locale and situation. 8. Look for areas of agreement Listening for areas of agreement will make the speakers message more meaningful for you and will also make the speaker more comfortable; people can tell if you agree or disagree with what is being said. 9. Avoid jumping to conclusions and making hasty evaluations If you are using your mind and attention-span to formulate conclusions before the speaker is finished you may not hear the complete message. You may end up making incorrect conclusions and leave with the wrong message. This is a trap that catches many listeners. Its the same as leaving the theater before the movie ends, or the baseball game before the last inning ends -just to beat the parking lot jam. You may miss the best part of the whole show. You cannot evaluate someones message without hearing it completely. 10. Listen for the main points Speakers may present many details in a message. Try to concentrate on the main points being made. This will help you develop a clear understanding of what the real message is. 11. Take notes Taking notes may not always be possible, but when it is note taking can help you to concentrate on the main points. Dont try to record every word, just get the main ideas. 4

Listening Skills Survey


Instructions: Rate yourself on each of the following listening characteristics. Rating Scale: 1 = Usually, 2 = Sometimes, 3 = Never When listening to someone speaker -- in a speech, or during a one-on-one conversation, do you: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Daydream Mentally argue with the speaker Try to dominate the conversation Ask inappropriate questions Always become bored Show lack of interest in the speaker Have trouble concentrating Talk to others during the speech Draw conclusions based on the speakers dress _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ _______ Name: Date: Period:

10. Draw conclusions based on the speakers mannerisms 11. Draw conclusions based on the speakers speaking style 12. Fidget with things 13. Become overly emotional 14. Fall asleep 15. Lose your temper 16. Automatically look for areas of disagreement

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18. Concentrate on details while missing the main point 19. Ignore the speaker 20. Make jokes about the speaker

_______ _______ _______

Score: _______ Rating: 48-60 35-47 20-34 Good Listening Skills Average Listening Skills Poor Listening Skills