Listening is part of our everyday lives. Approximately 4.5 percent of the time spent in communication situations is listening. For college students, that figure goes up to 60 to 70 percent.
Obstacles for Listening
- You have no control over the speed at which material is being presented.
- There is no opportunity to review things you don’t understand.
- Listening requires coordination with another person – the speaker. You must be able to follow what the speaker is saying.
- Listening is traditionally learned as a passive, rather than active, process.
Improved Listening Skills Enable You To:
- Learn faster and remember more.
- Improve your ability to reason.
- Experience less frustration and disappointment.
- Save study time by absorbing more information during class.
- Build a greater background of knowledge more quickly.
How to Listen
- Prepare. Complete reading assignments and all other homework before class. Arrive a few minutes early, and then review your notes.
- Minimize distractions. Sit where you can see well and won’t be distracted by classmates.
- Concentrate. Set aside other concerns so you may devote full attention to the lecture (see the Improving Concentration page in this series).
- Keep an open mind. Listen for content; don’t make judgments during the lecture or let personal opinions about the instructor interfere with listening.
- Ask Questions. Clarify points you don’t understand by asking questions. The speaker will typically rephrase the information.
- Request information be repeated. If you miss a part of the lecture, ask the speaker to repeat the information.
- Ask for definitions. If you don’t understand a word, have the speaker define it. Ask the speaker to write the word on the board so you can see it.
- Be active. Sit up straight in your chair and lean forward. Look at the speaker as he talks. Take notes on what is being said.
Use Your Clues
Most lectures provide clues to help you follow what they are saying. These strategies sound simple, but if you practice them, you will maximize the information you absorb during lecture.
- Opening comments, which provide a preview of information to be covered.
- Examples to illustrate what they want you to know.
- Clues to upcoming major points, including pauses and repetition.
- Significant details to list under major points.
- Verbal markers, such as “this is important” or “this will be on the test.”
- Body language can help you identify important points, breaks between topic areas, and provide other helpful information.
- Visual aids. Any time a speaker writes something down, whether it’s on a wipe-off board, chalkboard or overhead, it’s probably important information.
Tips for Better Listening
- Listen longer. Don’t be too quick to interrupt or tune out.
- Use all of your senses. You can “hear” a lot by observing body language.
- Be aware of your own assumptions. Don’t stop listening if you disagree with the speaker.
- Practice listening selectively. Tune out distractions.
- Practice listening intentionally. Pay attention the first time, and resolve to practice attentiveness. Good listening skills are learned.
- Learn to process audible words, or hear. For example, listen carefully to your favorite song. You’ll probably hear things you never heard before.
- Learn to follow the speaker. A class lecture is not the time to react emotionally. Your evaluation should come after listening.
- Be conscious of the speaker when you are listening. You can learn a lot about what to do and what not to do.