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You are sitting in class, listening to your professor talk, and your thoughts start to drift. You're thinking about what's for lunch and what you should wear to the party later. You hear your teacher say something about what will be on the exam, and you briefly jot it down. You're not sure what it means, but you tell yourself you'll look it up later. When the exam comes, you spend hours researching the topic the night before. You could have avoided that if you had used active listening skills during the lecture. But how can you become a more focused listener? Through active listening skills!
Active listening skills are the steps required to be an engaged listener. Learning active listening skills helps people become more attentive and truly understand the information they hear. These skills can improve the quality of academic performance, professional communication, and formal relationships.
Active listening skills are a set of skills that help people become engaged listeners. Active listening means listening in an attentive, respectful manner using all five senses. It requires complete focus and quiet as you process what the speaker is saying.
Active listening skills are required to be an engaged, respectful listener.
Active listening skills improve all forms of communication. Beyond just understanding what speakers are saying, practicing active listening ensures listeners engage respectfully with speakers in a way that fosters healthy dialogue and debate. Active listening skills are thus useful in schools, workplaces, politics, and even in informal communication among friends and family.
For instance, imagine your school principal visiting your classroom and explaining a new school rule you disagree with. If you call out in the middle of the speech and make rude comments about the rule, the principal is unlikely to take you seriously. However, if you actively listen, strive to understand their point of view, then respectfully disagree, you are more likely to have a fruitful dialogue.
To use active listening for effective communication, it is important to understand what makes an active listener. The main characteristics of active listening skills are often referred to as the "three As" of active listening: attitude, attention, and adjustment.
The first "A" of active listening stands for attitude. Active listeners should approach the speaker with a positive outlook. Even if you are not in a good mood, not looking forward to what you will be listening to, or have low expectations, you should work to put all that aside and approach the speaker with an open mind. A good attitude and a smile will make the experience more enjoyable for the speaker and the listener alike and help the listener stay focused.
To maintain a positive attitude, listeners should avoid making internal negative comments about the speaker. If you disagree with what's being said, you can ask questions and make comments after the speaker is finished.
Listening with a positive attitude also entails avoiding bias. Bias is prejudice in support of or against something. For instance, a hiring manager who favors younger applicants over older ones is biased toward younger applicants.
While active listening, listeners should work to put aside subjective opinions and inclinations that might distract them or discourage them from listening to the speaker with an open mind. You never know what a speaker might teach you or spark your interest in, so it is important to reflect on and put aside biases you have before listening to a speaker.
For instance, imagine you have to listen to a presidential candidate give a speech, but you already know you will vote for the other candidate. In such a case, you might be tempted to ignore what the speaker is saying or not be an active listener. However, you might miss learning about critical political perspectives that impact you, whether you agree with them or not. Recognizing biases before listening and choosing to set them aside will help keep listeners respectful and focused.
Another important characteristic of active listening is attention. Active listeners need to give speakers their complete attention by maintaining eye contact, taking notes, and not multitasking while listening. Giving the speaker your full attention will ensure you hear and process everything that is said.
If you are taking notes while listening, look up every so often to give the speaker eye contact. This will help ensure you stay focused and show the speaker that you are still engaged, despite looking down.
Adjustment is the third primary characteristic of active listening. Adjustment entails going with the flow and adapting to how the speaker approaches a topic rather than expecting a speaker to approach it in a particular manner. For instance, your teacher might go on a detour during a lecture and tell a personal story that loosely relates to the topic at hand. You might think this is irrelevant and be tempted to zone out. In doing so, you will get off task and find it hard to re-focus. Instead, you should remind yourself of the speaker's main point and adjust to their approach to the topic.
To achieve all the As of active listening, listeners should practice seven key active listening skills.
Putting away distractions shows respect and helps maintain focus. Distractions include anything that might take away the listener's attention, including cellphones, computers, televisions, and books. Listeners should also be on the lookout for internal distractions, like thinking about other things, spacing out, and daydreaming. If you feel your mind start to drift to other subjects, try to bring yourself back to the speaker by shifting your eyes to theirs.
If you use a computer or phone to take notes on what a speaker is saying, mute notifications like texts or emails.
Active listeners should check in with themselves to ensure their body language allows them to focus on the speaker. Like putting away distractions, proper body language demonstrates respect and maintains the listener's attention. Body language for active listening includes the following characteristics:
Feet on the floor
Lean toward the speaker
Nod your head occasionally
The above features will help listeners avoid distracting behavior like dosing off and daydreaming.
Active listeners should wait and listen to everything a speaker has to say before responding. If you have comments or questions, you can alert the speaker by raising your hand, if appropriate. However, listeners often find that their questions or comments are addressed later in what the speaker has to say. The most important rule is to not shout at the listener or make a comment without asking. This is disrespectful, distracting for other listeners, and can break the listener's own focus.
An essential part of clarification is checking to ensure you understand the speaker. To do this, you can ask yourself internal clarification questions such as, "What is the speaker's main point?" or "What was the relevance of that last example?" Checking in with yourself to ensure you are keeping up with the listener helps keeps you engaged and on task and can also help you recognize when you need clarification.
Taking notes while a speaker is speaking is a great way to reflect on what is being said. Note-taking has many benefits, including the following:
Active listening helps listeners understand speakers clearly. Therefore, an important part of active listening is asking the speaker to clarify points you did not understand. Make sure to ask for clarification at an appropriate time, like after the speaker is done speaking or during a designated time for questions and comments.
While listening to the speaker, remind yourself of the main point of the conversation. If the speaker tells several stories or uses a lot of supporting evidence, it can be easy to forget the overall message. Identifying their purpose at the beginning and then reminding yourself of it throughout the speech will help you stay focused.
Active listeners who exercise all active listening skills will thoroughly understand what was said. To test if you understood, you can summarize what the speaker said. To summarize means to condense what was said in a shorter, original version. If you can summarize the speaker's main points, you understand the information well.
Active listening is valuable in several scenarios. No matter where you use active listening, it can always help foster healthy, respectful relationships.
Practicing active listening can be challenging in school because students often have to do it for several hours a day. However, it is one of the most critical situations for active listening because students must retain the information they learn in school to excel academically.
Applying the above tips about active learning lets you stay an active listener all day. For instance, imagine it is your sixth class period, and you are listening to your English teacher give a presentation on Romantic poets. You are tired and your friend told you that the Romantics are boring, so you are not motivated to listen. Your teacher starts talking, but you do not process anything that they are saying.
In order to perform well in class and learn about the topic, you need to be an active listener. Here are steps you can take to be an active listener in this situation:
Since your friend told you that the topic is boring, you are entering the lecture with negative preconceived ideas. You need to change this attitude to be an open-minded, focused listener. For example, you might ask yourself, "Who were the Romantic poets? Why did my friend think this was a boring topic? Will I agree, or if I will find them interesting?" Even though you might not like what you hear, giving your teacher the chance to explain the topic will help you learn.
To ensure you stay engaged, you should check that you are demonstrating attentive body language. This includes sitting up straight and making eye contact with the teacher. You may even have a pen and paper in hand, ready to take notes as your teacher speaks, to make sure you are actively pressing what you hear.
You should be ready to adjust your mindset as your teacher talks about the topic. Even if you find yourself confused or not interested in the topic, you should jot down important information the whole time and go with the flow of the lecture. Reminding yourself of the main point of the lecture when your teacher goes on tangents or uses in-depth examples will also help you adjust to the style of the presentation.
Active listening skills can also help in professional settings, like a job interview. For example, imagine you are interviewing for an administrative internship and do not know much about the job responsibilities. You need to be an active listener as the interview explains what the job entails. The three As of active listening skills are particularly important in this scenario, as they demonstrate professionalism and help you understand the position.
In this example, note how the three As of active listening overlap in practice. Listening with a positive attitude helps you stay attentive, and adjusting to surprises helps you maintain a positive attitude.
In order to demonstrate your desire for a job, you need to go into the interview with a positive attitude. Listen to the interviewer describe who they are looking for with an open mind. Express your enthusiasm for the position by listening to what the interviewer says with focused attention.
Make direct eye contact with the interviewer to show that you are paying attention in an interview. If you are taking notes on the job description, look up frequently and nod as the interview talks to show that you are still engaged. You should also sit up straight and lean a bit toward the speaker to show that your complete attention is on them.
Adjustment is particularly important in a job interview because the interviewer might reveal surprising or disappointing information, but you do not want it to negatively impact your attitude. For example, the interviewer might say they are looking for someone who speaks intermediate French, and you know that you only speak French at a beginner level. To adjust to surprising information like this, stay attentive but keep this point in the back of your mind. When the interviewer is done speaking, you could then express your concerns. Adjusting like this keeps the situation professional and respectful.
Active listening skills are required to be an engaged listener who retains information.
Active listening means listening in an attentive, respectful manner using all five senses. It requires complete focus and quiet as you process what the speaker is saying.
Examples of active listening include making eye contact with a presenter, nodding as a teacher gives a lecture, asking clarification questions during a job interview, and listening with an open mind to someone you are biased against.
The there A's of active listening are attitude, attention, and adjustment.
Active listening skills are important because they demonstrate respect for speakers and help listeners thoroughly understand the information a speaker presents.
Listeners can show that they are actively listening by making eye contact with the speaker, nodding along, and asking questions when appropriate.
Mary is about to go to a political science lecture. She thinks that since her professor is old, he won’t explain contemporary political issues accurately. She decides to just catch up on homework while he is talking. What is Mary going into the lecture with? What does she need to do to be an active listener?
Bias. She is biased against the professor because of his age. She needs to adjust her attitude to be an active listener.
What is the most effective position for active listening?
Taking notes, making eye contact with the speaker occasionally, sitting up straight
Which of the following should active listeners avoid?
Commenting on what the speaker says while they’re talking
What are the three As of active listening?
Attitude, Attention, Adjustment
True or False? Writing down notes means the listener is not actively listening.
False. Active listeners can write down notes as long as they look up every so often to make eye contact with the speaker. Writing down notes can help listeners process what they are hearing.
Paul is at a job interview. The interviewer says the job requires more hours than he expected. What should he do?
Adjust to his surprise and let the interviewer finish
Which of the three As of active listening should listeners remember when a speaker goes on a tangent?
_ are the skills required to be an engaged, respectful listener.
Active listening skills
Active listening does which of the following things?
Demonstrates respect for the speaker
John is actively taking notes while his teacher explains the French Revolution. He leans back and scribbles in his notebook during the entire lecture. What should he do differently to be a more effective active listener?
He should sit up straight and make eye contact with the speaker more often. This will help him check in with himself to ensure he is following the speaker. This body language will also demonstrate respect for the teacher.
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