February 12th, 2014 by schoolbound
Everybody listens. We listen to music, TV, the radio, coworkers, customers, parents, spouses, every day all day long. But do we REALLY listen? There have been many studies that suggest that people really only remember about 25 – 50% of what they hear and retain less than that from listening experiences. That means that when you listen to someone you actually pay attention to less than half of the conversation. And you know how it goes… your mind is wandering to the tasks that you need to accomplish during the day, what you will eat for lunch, what is on your spouse’s nose as they are talking to you that you want to flick off…. countless thoughts flutter in and distract you. But in order to listen fully… or what I like to call active listening, you need to push these distractions away and concentrate on what is being said to you.
Here are a few techniques that can help you learn to actively listen and retain more information, which will help you in your classes and throughout your career:
1. Pay Attention. This might seem like a no brainer but this takes some skill like a stealth ninja! You should keep your eyes on the speaker and try to push away distracting thoughts. This is the same technique used in meditation. Do not think of your reply or your to-do list, do not look around the room. Just concentrate on what is being said and LISTEN.
2. Exemplify Listening. This means show that you are listening in your body language and posture. React to what is being said with a smile, a nod, maybe a yes and an “uh-huh”.
3. Give Feedback. This is more for talking in a small group or one on one, not necessarily for lectures. But it could be. Giving feedback means paraphrasing what was said back to the person speaking like “It sounds like what you are saying is…” or asking clarifying questions like “What do you mean when you say….”. This shows that you are listening as well as reinforces the information.
4. Do Not Disturb. Never interrupt a speaker. It is not only rude but also frustrating and does not allow them to finish making their point. Allow them to finish completely before asking questions or countering what they are saying regardless whether you agree or disagree. And try not to make any judgments while they are speaking, this will only distract you from what they are saying. Everyone deserves to be heard.
5. Be Respectful. When you actively listen to someone you are showing them respect and it should be carried forward through your dialogue as well. When you respond to someone show them the respect and courtesy that you would want to receive, be honest and straight forward but treat the other person with dignity. Never belittle what they have said or disregard their position even if it differs from yours.
6. Take Notes. When actively listening to a lecture, a customer, another student or coworker, your boss or whomever, take notes. It can do no harm and can only enhance and reinforce what you are hearing and learning.
You too can become the stealth ninja of active listening by consciously making the effort to be present and take an active role. It takes determination and a lot of concentration to remind yourself to really listen. But the rewards not only in school, but in the workplace, in relationships and in life are fully rewarding! Try it and let me know how you do!
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