5 effective ways to be a better listener
Each of the listening problems discussed in the article “causes of poor listening” has a solution. Your poor listening may be due to one or all of them. You have to work hard at improving your listening. To improve, you should be aware of your shortcomings. Analyse them and be determined to overcome them. Good listening has nothing to do with your level of intelligence, education, or social standing. You have to master it through constant practice and self-discipline. The following tips will be helpful.
5 effective ways to be a better listener
Take listening seriously
Think of listening as an active process. Listening in class is not the same as the more common process of listening to music or the radio while doing something else. It requires concentration. To become an active listener, you must put in a lot of effort and determination to form the appropriate listening habit.
Learn to adapt to distractions in your room or the classroom if you must study well. We cannot eliminate all physical and environmental distractions. The room may be very hot; sounds outside the classroom may be beyond your immediate control. So your attention strays often. Make a conscious effort to pull back your mind to what your lecturer is saying.
Then force your mind to stay there. You could think a little ahead of the lecturer by trying to anticipate what will be said next, without jumping to conclusions. Now, you will listen and measure what your lecturer says against what you anticipated.
You could review mentally what the lecturer has already said and made sure you understand it. You could listen between the lines and assess what the lecturer implies verbally or indicates non verbally with either his gestures, facial expressions, or other paralanguage. If you are attentive, you can pick up all kinds of clues to a speaker’s real message.
Consider this: Mary walks in late to class and the lecturer says “wonderful! You are very early”. We know that he intends to say: Disgraceful, your lateness is not good for your studies”. At first, you may find it difficult to listen very intently. If you strive hard, your concentration will improve.
Don’t get diverted by appearance or delivery
The most informed teacher may not necessarily be elegant or good-looking. If you get used to and excuse their awkwardness, you may be listening to very useful ideas from such lecturers. You must be willing to set aside your preconceived judgments based on a person’s looks or manner of speech.
Though it may task your tolerance, patience and concentration, do not let negative feelings about a speaker’s appearance or delivery to prevent you from listening to the message. On the other hand, do not be carried away by an unusually attractive appearance. Good looks and polished delivery could cover up academic shallowness. Try to respond to the message, not the speaker alone.
Even if you don’t share your lecturer’s views, do not blot out what he is saying. You might be blotting out a chance to learn. You should hear out the lecturer before reaching a final judgement. Try to understand the lecturer’s point of view. Listen to their ideas, examine their evidence, assess their reasoning. Then make up your mind. If you are not sure, you have every reason to listen carefully. A closed mind is an empty mind.
Focus your listening
You should not listen to every word the lecturer says. Rather, focus on specific things in the lecture. This could be done in these ways. First, you should watch out for the main points. It is not difficult to get the key points if the lecture is well planned and developed. The lecturer is likely to introduce his main points using a combination of either thesis statement, topic sentences and transition signals such as first, second, next, later, finally, in conclusion, and do on. Take note of these and be prepared to seek out the main points.
You must also listen to the lecturer’s elaboration of the main points. This comes in the form of supporting evidence, details, statistics or illustration of key points. You should be interested in the accuracy of these elaborations, their objectivity, their relevance to the lecturer’s claims, and their sufficiency in supporting the speaker’s points.
These will depend on the source of information cited and their verifiability. Avoid noting unfounded assertions and sweeping generalizations. Watch out for your lecturer’s evidence or elaborations for their accuracy, objectivity, relevance, and sufficiency.
Finally, do not let the lecturer’s delivery distract you from the message. If what interests you is the lecturer’s method of marshalling his points and elaborating them, thus giving a logical structure to the lecture, then you may want to emulate his style. You could examine the introduction of the lecture or its organization.
You may look at the language, its accuracy, clarity, vividness and appropriateness to the main topic. As you listen, focus on the lecturer’s strengths and weaknesses. If he/she is not effective, try to determine why. If he/she is effective, pick out techniques you can adapt for your own purposes later. If you listen in this way, you will be surprised how much you can learn from your lecturers.
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