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Education Resources

Strategies for Effective Listening from MB0023 of SMU MBA

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Although the reasons for breakdowns in listening are numerous, there are many ways to improve listening skills. You can improve your listening skills by following some of the strategies mentioned below:

Maintain eye contact with the speaker: Eye contact keeps you focused on the job at hand and keeps you involved in the lecture/speech.

Provide clues that you are actively involved in listening: Clues that you are actively listening can go a long way. It is important to make the speaker feel that you care about what he/she is saying.

Focus on content, not delivery: Have you ever counted the number of times a teacher clears his/her throat in a fifteen minutes period? If so, you weren’t focusing on content.

Avoid emotional involvement: When you are too emotionally involved in listening, you tend to hear what you want to hear-not what is actually being said.

Avoid distractions: Don’t let your mind wander or be distracted by anything. It is necessary that you must concentrate. Concentration requires willingness and practice. Practicing active listening helps to develop concentration but there are other elements that contribute to your ability to concentrate on what someone is saying.

Refrain from formulating an immediate response: It is important to refrain from formulating an immediate response. Let yourself finish listening before you begin to speak.

Ask questions: If you are not sure you understand what the speaker has said, just ask. It is a good idea to repeat in your own words what the speaker said, so that you can be sure your understanding is correct.

Use the gap between the rate of speech and your rate of thought: You can think faster than the speaker can talk. That’s one reason why your mind may tend to wander. All the above suggestions will help you keep your mind occupied and focused on what is being said.

Be willing to accept revisions: It will keep the communication process running smoothly. Often people are so busy trying to defend their positions that they fail to really stop and think whether they could be improved upon or viewed in a different way.

Choose the right environment: It is important because it will help the listener focus on what he is listening and avoid distractions. Although you cannot always create or call an environment ‘perfect’ for all types of communication, in general, it is best to avoid areas where there are high levels of activity, loud noises, an uncomfortable temperature, poor air flow, etc.

Stay active by asking questions for yourself: Active listening keeps you on your toes. Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you listen: What key point is the speaker making? How does this fit with what I already know? How is this lecture/speech organized?

Treat listening as a challenging mental task: Listening to an academic lecture is not a passive act at least it shouldn’t be. You need to concentrate on what is said so that you can process the information thoroughly.

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