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Topic 4:

Active Listening and Speaking

Active listening is a process of putting together into some meaningful whole the listener ’

Active listening is a process of putting together into

some meaningful whole the listeners understand-

ing of the speakers total message – the verbal and the nonverbal, the content and the feelings.

Listen actively by paraphrasing the speakers meanings, expressing an understanding of the speakers feelings, and asking questions to enable you to check the accuracy of your understanding of the speaker.

Hearing Vs Listening:

Hearing is a physiological process, involving the vibration of sound waves on our eardrums and the firing of electrochemical impulses in the brain.

Listening involves paying close attention to, and making sense of, what we hear.

Effective Listening Habits

One way people can improve their listening is to identify their own poor listening habits and make an effort to change them.

If the listeners will then pay special attention to the circumstances that seem to invite such behaviour, they can consciously attempt to change their habits.

For example, if you realize that you are pseudo-listeningto someone, you can stop and ask that person to repeat his or her last idea. You can even say, Im sorry; my mind was wandering.The more you be- come conscious of poor listening behaviour, the more likely you are to change your poor listening habits.

Listed below are a few descriptions of behaviour that can lead to effective listening:

a. Paying Attention

If people really want to be good listeners, they must, on occasion, force themselves to pay attention to the speakers. When speakers are dull conversationalists, a listener must sometimes use effort to keep from being distracted by other things. It is important not only to focus on the speakers, but to use nonverbal cues (such as eye contact, head nods, and smiles) to let them know they are being heard.

b. Listening for the Whole Message.

This includes looking for meaning and consistency or congruence in both the verbal and nonverbal mes- sages and listening for ideas, feelings, and intentions as well as facts. It also includes hearing things that are unpleasant or unwelcome.


Hearing before Evaluating.

Listening to what someone says without drawing premature conclusions is a valuable aid to listening. By

questioning the speaker in a non-accusing manner, rather than giving advice or judging, a listener can of- ten discover exactly what the speaker has in mind—which many times is quite different from what the lis- tener had assumed.

d. Paraphrasing What Was Heard.

If the listener non-judgmentally paraphrases the words of the speaker and asks if that is what was meant, many misunderstandings and misinterpretations can be avoided.

Four kinds of Listening

Appreciative Listening

Empathic Listening

Comprehensive Listening

Critical Listening

- Listening for pleasure of enjoyment, as when we listen to music, to a comedy routine , or to an entertaining speech.

- Listening to provide emotional support for the speaker, as when

a psychiatrist listens to a patient or when we lend a sympathetic ear to a friend in distress

- Listening to understand the message of a speaker, as when we attend a classroom lecture or listen to directions for finding a friends house

- Listening to evaluate a message for purposes of accepting or rejecting it, as when we listen to the sales pitch of a used-car dealer or the campaign speech of a political candidate

Listening habits

Poor Listening Habits

Most people spend more time listening than they spend on any other communication activity, yet a large percentage of people never learn to listen well. One reason is that they develop poor listening habits that continue with them throughout life.

The following list contains some of the most common poor listening habits:

a. Not Paying Attention

Listeners may allow themselves to be distracted or to think of something else. Also, not wanting to listen often contributes to lack of attention.

b. Pseudo-listening.

Often people who are thinking about something else deliberately try to look as though they were listening. Such pretence may leave the speaker with the impression that the listener has heard some important in- formation or instructions offered by the speaker.

c. Listening but Not Hearing

Sometimes a person listens only to facts or details or to the way they were presented and misses the real meaning.

d. Interrupting

The listener does not wait until the complete meaning can be determined, but interrupts so forcefully that the speaker stops in mid-sentence.

e. Hearing What Is Expected

People frequently think they heard speakers say what they expected them to say. Alternatively, they re-

fuse to hear what they do not want to hear.

f. Feeling Defensive.

The listeners assume that they know the speakers intention or why something was said, or for various other reasons, they expect to be attacked.

g. Listening for a Point of Disagreement.

Some listeners seem to wait for the chance to attack someone. They listen intently for points on which they can disagree.

Attention Span

A person can only maintain focused attention for a finite length of time. The limits of the human attention span can interfere with listening, but listeners and speakers can use strategies to prevent this interference. For example, presentation might include some material alternated with questions for discussion, video clips, hand outs and demonstrations. Speakers who are adept at holding listenersattention also move about the front of the room, writing on the board, drawing diagrams, and intermittently using slide transpar- encies or PowerPoint slides.

Receiver Biases

Good listening involves keeping an open mind and withholding judgment until the speaker has completed the message. Conversely, biased listening is characterized by jumping to conclusions; the biased listener believes, I dont need to listen because I already know what I think.

Receiver biases can refer to two things: biases with reference to the speaker and preconceived ideas and opinions about the topic or message. Both can be considered noise.

Everyone has biases, but good listeners have learned to hold them in check while listening.

The first type of bias listeners can have is related to the speaker. Often a speaker stands

up and an audience member simply doesnt like the speaker, so the audience member may not listen to the speakers message. Maybe you have a classmate who just gets under your skin for some reason, or maybe you question a classmates competence on a given topic. When we have preconceived notions about a speaker, those biases can interfere with our ability to listen accurately and competently to the speakers message.

Why Listening is Difficult?

At times, everyone has difficulty staying completely focused during a lengthy presentation. We

can sometimes have difficulty listening to even relatively brief messages. Some of the factors that inter- fere with good listening might exist beyond our control, but others are manageable. Its helpful to be aware of these factors so that they interfere as little as possible with understanding the message.


Noise is one of the biggest factors to interfere with listening; it can be defined as anything that inter-

feres with your ability to attend to and understand a message.

There are many kinds of noise, but we will focus on only the four you are most likely to encounter in public speaking situations: physical noise, psychological noise, physiological noise, and semantic noise.

Physical Noise

Physical noise consists of various sounds in an environment that interfere with a sources ability to hear.

Construction noises right outside a window, planes flying directly overhead, or loud music in the next room can make it difficult to hear the message being presented by a speaker even if a microphone is being used.

It is sometimes possible to manage the context to reduce the noise.

Closing a window might be helpful. Asking the people in the next room to turn their music down might be possible. Changing to a new location is more difficult, as it involves finding a new location and having everyone get there.

Psychological Noise

Psychological noise consists of distractions to a speakers message caused by a receivers internal

thoughts. For example, if you are preoccupied with personal problems, it is difficult to give your full

attention to understanding the meanings of a message.

The presence of another person to whom you feel attracted, or perhaps a person you dislike in- tensely, can also be psychosocial noise that draws your attention away from the message.

noise that draws your attention away from the message. Physiological Noise  Physiological noise consists of

Physiological Noise

Physiological noise consists of distractions to a speakers message caused by a listeners own body.

Maybe youre listening to a speech in class around noon and you havent eaten anything. Your stomach may be growling and your desk is starting to look tasty.

Maybe the room is cold and youre thinking more about how to keep warm than about what the

speaker is saying. In either case, your body can distract you from attending to the information being


Semantic Noise

Semantic noise occurs when a receiver experiences confusion over the meaning of a sources word


While you are attempting to understand a particular word or phrase, the speaker continues to pre- sent the message.

While you are struggling with a word interpretation, you are distracted from listening to the rest of the message.

Another example of semantic noise is euphemism. Euphemism is diplomatic language used for de- livering unpleasant information. For instance, if someone is said to be flexible with the truth,it might take us a moment to understand that the speaker means this person sometimes lies.

flexible with the truth, ” it might take us a moment to understand that the speaker

Back Channelling

Back Channelling  Back - channelling cues means responses made by a listener during a conversation

Back-channelling cues means responses made by a listener during a conversation that acknowledge the speaker or the speakers message rather than request a turn as speaker.

Respond to back-channelling cues as appropriate to the conversation. Use back-channelling cues to let the speaker know that you are listening.

Back-channelling skills are important for people wishing to be able to function as supportive engaged listeners in a conversation.


You would use back-channelling cues to communicate various types of information back to the speaker without assuming the role of the speaker.

You can indicate your agreement or disagreement with the speaker through smiles or

frowns, ges-

tures of approval or disapproval, brief comments such as rightor never”, or a vocalization

such as uh-huh.

You can also indicate your degree of involvement or boredom with the speaker.

Attentive posture,

forward leaning, and focused eye contact will tell the speaker that you are involved in the conversa- tion just as inattentive posture, backward leaning, and avoidance of eye contact will communicate your lack of involvement.

Giving the speaker pacing cues helps regulate the speed of speech. You can, for example, ask the speaker to slow down by raising your hand near your ear and leaning forward and to speed up by continuously nodding your head. You can also do this verbally by simply asking the speaker to slow down (“Slow down, I want to make sure Im getting all this”). Similarly, you can tell the speaker to

speed up by saying something like and …” or go on, go on

A request for clarification is still another function of back-channelling cues. A puzzled facial expres- sion, perhaps coupled with a forward lean, will probably tell most speakers that you want some clar- ification. Similarly, you can ask for clarification by interjecting some interrogative: Who?” “When?” “Where?

Active Speaking

Active speaking is the process of directing conversation on a specific agenda by asking ques- tions and through the use of suggestive reasoning.

Active speaking involves several elements including tone of voice, articulation, empathy, and sum- marization.

Encouraging possible solutions could be particularly effective if the options are clearly available, but leading to those options by asking questions allows participants to feel more involved in the decision making process.

Asking such leading questions as, "Would this work for you if we can get everyone to agree on it?", or "If I stop doing this, would you agree to that?" create an environment of cooperation and inclu- sion.

Speaking in a calm, but authoritative tone gives the impression of being non-confrontational, but also in control.

Speaking clearly, so that words aren't misinterpreted helps move dialogue along. Increasing pitch or volume accomplishes just the opposite, creating a more animated vocal tone, and potentially in- creases situational anxiety while slowing the communication process.

Showing empathy by using such phrases as "I understand", or "I see your point of view" allows for more effective two-way communication.

Impromptu speech

Impromptu speech An impromptu speech may be the most common type of speech you will give.

An impromptu speech may be the most common type of speech you will give. An Impromptu speech is a speech you deliver that is not planned for prepared in advance.

Impromptu speeches usually last only a few minutes and are given in the workplace, in community meetings or gatherings, and a social events.

You give an impromptu speech when someone asks you to ex- plain what you know, share your experience or perspective, or when you decide to speak out spontaneously about some is- sue, person, or idea.

Because impromptu speeches are unplanned, researches have a hard time gathering systematic data

about them. However, common sense tells us that impromptu speeches follow many of rules and formulas we use for planned speeches.

Similarities between

Planned and Impromptu Speeches

Lets look at what some of the similarities are between planned speeches and impromptu speeches. Like planned speeches, impromptu speeches:

Have an audience, so you will use your skills of audience analysis

Have a purpose, so you will have a thesis statement (central idea) and a main point or points.

Rely on accurate information, so you will develop your ideas using your knowledge, previous research, and expertise.

Also use the various types of supporting evidence youve learned about (examples, narratives, statistics, testimony, definitions) and sometimes even provide abbreviated citations for them.

Rely on effective reasoning (inductive, deductive, causal, analogical, reasoning by sign)

Have introductions and conclusions, although they usually are single words or simple phrases rather than longer narratives.

May use signposts and connectives to help you express your ideas and keep audience in- volved.

Differences between

Planned and Impromptu Speeches

There are important differences between planned and impromptu speeches, and understanding those dif- ferences can help you develop the skills you need for giving effective impromptu speeches. Unlike planned speeches, impromptu speeches:

Wont give you time to narrow or focus your topic before the speech, so, when you work on your planned speeches, practice focusing your topics.

Are usually short, so choose your evidence and patterns of reasoning carefully and with an

impromptu speechs short time frame in mind.

Require that you think of an introduction and a conclusion quickly, so develop strategies for coming up with these speech elements quickly.

Speaking to Inform Occasionally, a speech may be given to inspire, to entertain to introduce
Speaking to Inform
Occasionally, a speech may be given to
inspire, to entertain to introduce someone
else, to accept an honour given, or to eu-
logize a person. Most speeches, howev-
er, are given for one of two basic reasons:
to inform or to persuade.

When you give a speech to inform, your basic purpose is to provide listeners with information they do not already have. Even though the audience may have some general knowledge of your topic before you begin, an informative speech will impart new knowledge or more in-depth information on that topic.

Speeches given to inform serve many useful functions in everyday life. Reports at business meetings, classroom lessons and demonstrations, report to labour unions, tours through state and national parks, speeches given a civic clubs--all are examples of informative speeches.

Notice that a speech is considered informative whenever the speaker's primary purpose is to impart or give new knowledge. In some cases a speaker may have a mixed motive. Along with imparting new in- formation, the speaker may wish to persuade listeners by influencing their beliefs, attitudes or behaviour. Teachers, for example, often speak with such mixed motives. Along with showing you how to work with decimals, a math teacher might wish to persuade you of the importance of knowing how to work with deci- mals. Since the teacher's main purpose in speaking is to impart new knowledge, however, you would call this math lesson an example of informative rather than persuasive speaking.

There are three criteria for effective informative speaking.

1. The information should be communicated accurately.

2. The information should be communicated clearly.

3. The information should be made meaningful and interesting to the audience.

should be communicated clearly. 3. The information should be made meaningful and interesting to the audience.

Types of Informative Speeches


Some informative speeches are about objects.

Speeches about objects deal with anything you can see, feel, hear, taste or smell

These speeches deal with particular items in our physical world

As use here, the term objectsinclude persons living or dead, animals, places, plants and structure.

There are several general topics you could use for a speech about objects: space travel; Stat- ue of Liberty; dinosaurs; the human brain; Venus' flytrap; chestnut trees; Albert Einstein; com- puters; Hamlet; Bill Clinton; guitars; Monticello.

In order to focus on your specific informative purpose, you next need to select a particular aspect of your topic and state it in a purpose sentence. Here are a few examples:

My purpose is to inform my audience what to look for when buying a home computer

My purpose is to inform my audience of the major accomplishments of the Clinton presidency


Some informative speeches are about processes

Speeches about processes explain how something is made, describe how something is done, or convey how something works

Here are examples of good specific purpose statements for speeches about processes:

To inform mu audience how hurricanes develop

To inform my audience how to write an effective job resume.

To inform my audience how oriental rugs are made.

As these examples suggest, there are two kinds of informative speeches about processes.

One kind explains a process so that listeners will understand it better.

This kind of speech is to have your audience know the steps of the process and how they re- late to one another.

If your specific purpose is To inform my audience how underwater robots work,you will ex- plain the basic tasks and mechanisms of underwater robots. You will not instruct your listeners on how they can operate an underwater robot.

Second kind of speech explains a process so listeners will be better able to perform the process themselves.

Suppose your specific purpose is To inform my audience how to take pictures like a profes- sional photographer.You will present the basic techniques of professional photography and

show your listeners how they can utilize those techniques. You want the audience to be able to

use the techniques as a result of your speech.

Speeches about process often require visual aids and careful organization:

Speeches that explain a process step by step are arranged in chronological order.

Speeches that focus on the major principles or techniques involved in performing the process are usually arranged in topical order.

Whichever method of organization is used, each step in the process must be clear and easy for listeners to follow.


Some informative speeches are about events.

Anything that happens or is regarded as happening: Operation Desert Storm, job interviews, terminal illness, movie viewing. Examples;


- to inform my audience on the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm

- to inform my audience on common mistakes made during job interviews

- to inform my audience how terminal illness affects surviving family members

- to inform my audience of how advance publicity affects movie viewing

There are many ways to organize a speech about an event.


Speeches that recount the history of an event are arranged in chronological order.


Speeches that deal with particular elements of an event are usually arranged in topical order.


Some informative speeches are about concept

Speeches about concepts convey information concerning beliefs, theories, principles, or other abstract subjects.

- to inform my audience on the reasons people become vegetarians

The two main reasons cited for becoming a vegetarian are the benefits derived from a vegetari- an diet and the ethics of eating meat.

1. Some people choose vegetarianism because of two benefits:


vegetarian diets are more economical


vegetarian diets are healthy

2. Some people choose vegetarianism because of personal convictions:


It is wrong to eat meat because it wrong to kill animals


wrong to eat meat because its production is inefficient

Speeches about concepts are usually arranged in topical order.

Speeches about concepts are often more complex than other kinds of informative speeches.

(a). When discussing concepts, a speaker should avoid technical language and define terms clearly.

(b) A speaker should also use examples and comparisons to make concepts understand ble to listeners.