Every night when I was growing up our family of seven ate at the dinner table. Each night was an opportunity to share things we learned that day. My Dad always had a story for us. However, many times, he included details that just weren’t true. He wanted us to pay attention and decide if everything he was telling us made sense.
How to Improve Listening Skills
He felt strongly that listening skills needed to be taught and practiced, and this was my father’s technique for teaching us these critical skills. He would say just because you have two ears on the side of your head doesn’t mean you automatically know how to listen.
He’s right. Effective listening is something that needs to be learned. Especially, today we work and live in busy environments. We practice tuning-out, not tuning-in.
Three Steps to Effective Listening Skills
Step 1: Tune in. Tuning in, of course, is the very first step to effective listening. In order to be a successful listener you must be physically and mentally prepared to tune in. For me, this means aligning my body with the other person and maintaining eye contact–giving him or her my undivided attention.
It also means turning off any mind chatter. Sometimes I’m still thinking about something else and I arrive late to the listening. Or sometimes, I start listening, but before my conversation partner finishes, I begin planning what I am going to say in response. Or worse, I pass judgment and think, “This isn’t important. This is stupid” and I stop listening. Good listeners suspend judgment and wait until the other person is finished before they create a response. If you feel like you might forget a point just take notes.
Show You are Listening
By the way, it’s also nice if you are able to show that you are listening: lean in, tilt your head, or occasionally nod at your partner. The idea is not just to listen, but also to encourage the speaker.
In this step, the key is to concentrate on the words you hear and the body language signals you see. Are they smiling? Are they talking rapidly? How’s their posture? Are the words and body language congruent?
For example, if someone is smiling and talking rapidly they’re likely to be genuinely excited and interested in the topic. If you notice slumped shoulders and a chin tilted toward the ground perhaps the person is experiencing sadness or a lack of self-esteem. The clues can be very subtle. It might be that you barely notice a slight side to side “no” headshake at the same time the person is saying, “Sure, we can do that.”
For this step, you need to tune in to what and how something is said and be alert for what is left unsaid.
Understand What You’ve Just Heard
Step 2: Decide what it means. Next, you’ll need to translate and interpret what you heard and observed. You’ve got to decide what it all means. We all create meaning based on our own experiences, so it’s important to confirm that your understanding of what was communicated is really what the speaker was trying to communicate.
Sometimes you’ll need to ask open-ended questions to confirm your understanding.
For example, even if I say something as simple as “I opened the door” what exactly are you imagining in your mind? Am I opening an office door? Am I opening a car door? Maybe it’s a door to a house?
The point is that sometimes you’ll need to ask open-ended questions to confirm your understanding. Such as, “When you said X, what did you mean?” “Why do you think X, is it because of A?” “Can you give me an example of what you meant by Y?” “Tell me more about your feelings regarding X”
Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Communication
In addition to paying attention to the meaning of the words, you’ll also need to understand the non-verbal behaviors you observed. Were the tone of voice, gestures, and words all in agreement? Did the words say yes, but the body language said no? Did your conversation partner seem excited, disappointed, angry, confused? These non-verbal gestures and actions reveal inner thoughts, attitudes, and emotions that may not have been expressed verbally.
Step 3: Paraphrase to confirm understanding. The final step to effective listening is to confirm your understanding. To do that you’ll need to paraphrase, or reword what you heard including the content and the emotion. For example, the speaker might say, “I can’t stand that I need to repeat the instructions three or four times in excruciating detail and she still doesn’t seem to understand how to complete the task.”
The listener might respond, “It sounds like you are frustrated because she’s not following instructions even after the steps of a task have been explained more than once.”
The structure of paraphrasing is:
plus feelings summary
plus content summary
So, again, another example might be, “It seems (lead in) that you are angry and perhaps resentful (feelings summary) because you’re being asked to work overtime (content summary), is that right?” Be careful to be accurate and not overstate what you heard. By repeating back the other’s person’s meaning in your own words, you are letting the other person know you understand what they are telling you. In short, it prevents miscommunication.
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The Steps to Effective Listening Skills
So there you have it, three steps to improve the intensity and accuracy of your listening skills. First you need to tune in to what someone is saying and tune out all the noise. Pay attention to everything that is said and left unsaid and pick up on non-verbal behaviors. Then you need to clarify what it all means by asking open-ended questions. Finally, you need to repeat back what you heard, in your own words, to confirm your understanding of what the other person said. Improving listening skills is not difficult. By following these three steps you’ll develop a greater insight into what people are really saying.
Improve Your English Listening Skills
Make sure you have the right software to take advantage of what is available on the www. You can download players and find links to online radio stations at real.com , windowsmedia.com and winamp.com . You can try some of the English radio stations I recommend on my broadcasts page. You can subscribe to podcasts and radio stations on iTunes too.
Films in English are an excellent language resource. my tips on how to use films to improve your English. If you’re not sure what films to watch, look at my recommended films pages.
Listening whilst reading is a good idea too. There are lots of audio books on the market, I mention some on my recommended books pages, there are also some fun podcasts on the Have Fun with English site and on the Interesting Facts site. Listening to adverts can help too, they’re nice and short. Every month we feature an ad on the English magazine, with the transcription. .
Keep up to date with current events and watch an English-language news station, such as BBC World. Watch news reports on events you are already aware of.
Find out how to switch languages on your TV. If you have digital or satellite TV there are several channels that broadcast in multiple languages. Eurosport is one and Euronews is another, you should be able to set these to the English language.
Once you have begun to listen on a regular basis, you might still be frustrated (adjective=upset) by limited understanding. What should you do?
Here is some of the advice I give my students:
Accept the fact that you are not going to understand everything.
Keep cool (idiom=stay relaxed) when you do not understand – even if you continue to not understand for a long time.
Do not translate into your native language (synonym=mother tongue)
Listen for the gist (noun=general idea) of the conversation. Don’t concentrate on detail until you have understood the main ideas.
I remember the problems I had in understanding spoken German when I first went to Germany. In the beginning, when I didn’t understand a word, I insisted on translating it in my mind. This approach (synonym=method) usually resulted in confusion. Then, after the first six months, I discovered two extremely important facts; Firstly, translating creates a barrier (noun=wall, separation) between the listener and the speaker. Secondly, most people repeat themselves constantly. By remaining calm (adjective=relaxed), I noticed that – even if I spaced out (idiom=to not pay attention) I could usually understand what the speaker had said. I had discovered some of the most important things about listening comprehension:
Translating creates a barrier between yourself and the person who is speaking
While you are listening to another person speaking a foreign language (English in this case), the temptation is to immediately translate into your native language. This temptation becomes much stronger when you hear a word you don’t understand. This is only natural as we want to understand everything that is said. However, when you translate into your native language, you are taking the focusof your attention away from the speaker and concentrating on the translation process taking place in your brain. This would be fine if you could put the speaker on hold (phrasal verb=to make a person wait). In real life however, the person continues talking while you translate. This situation obviously leads to less -not more- understanding. I have discovered that translation leads to a kind of block (noun=no movement or activity ) in my brain which sometimes doesn’t allow me to understand anything at all!
Most people repeat themselves
Think for a moment about your friends, family and colleagues. When they speak in your native tongue, do they repeat themselves? I don’t mean literally (adverb=word for word), I mean the general idea. If they are like most people I have met, they probably do. That means that whenever you listen to someone speaking, it is very likely (adjective=probable) that he/she will repeat the information, giving you a second, third or even fourth chance to understand what has been said.
By remaining calm, allowing yourself to notunderstand, and not translating while listening, your brain is free to concentrate on the most important thing: Understanding English in English.
In order to have good skills in listening comprehension in English and to speak it fluently, a learner should practise listening to audio and video aids in English (dialogues, thematic texts and narrative stories). It is preferable to have English transcripts of audio and video material. I suggest that learners practice listening comprehension with subsequent speaking in the following sequence:
Learners should listen to each sentence several times. At the same time they should see each sentence in the transcript.
Learners need to make sure they understand everything clearly in each sentence in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.
Without looking into the transcript, learners should try to repeat each sentence (say it aloud) exactly as they heard it. Without being able to repeat a sentence, a learner cannot understand it.
Then it is essential that learners listen to that particular conversation or text (story) in short paragraphs or chunks, say each paragraph aloud, and compare to the transcript.
Finally it is necessary that learners listen to the whole conversation or story without interruption several times, and try to tell the content of the whole conversation or text (story) they heard. They can write key words and phrases, or main ideas as a plan, or questions on that particular dialogue or text to make easier for them to convey their content in English. It is important for learners to compare what they said to the transcript.
Thank you to Mike Shelby for offering this advice on improving listening comprehension skills in English based on his considerable English teaching experience.
Ten Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”–Leo Buscaglia
Every time I give an assignment to my college students, I ask if they have questions. At first, everyone is hesitant, but in a moment or two, the questions begin. And that’s fine. What I find somewhat disconcerting, though, is that most of the questions reveal that the students haven’t really listened to my explanation, even though they appeared to have been attentive.
I realize many of us need to hear something more than once to understand and process it, and I’m not faulting my students for that. What bothers me is that in school and elsewhere, I’ve noticed most people don’t make much of an attempt to listen to others. In fact, I believe we are in the midst of a non-listening epidemic that is affecting the quality of our relationships, costing businesses thousands of dollars every year, and producing mediocre learning in our schools.
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Most of what we learn, we learn by listening. Yet research shows that most of us aren’t good listeners. In their book, Excellence in Business Communication, Thill and Bovee write, “Listening is a far more complex process than most people think. .. . most of us listen at or below a 25 percent efficiency rate, remember only about half of what’s said during a 10-minute conversation, and forget half of that within 48 hours.”
It isn’t surprising that we don’t listen effectively. First of all, most of us haven’t been taught how to do so. We learn how to read and write but not how to listen. Secondly, we juggle so many activities on the job and at home that we don’t give much thought to listening. It’s speaking that takes priority. Yet mastering listening skills is critical if we are to become good communicators.
Cheesebro, O’Connor, and Rios write in Communication Skills, “People are fired, customers are lost, and working relationships are strained because of ineffective listening. Likewise, friendships suffer, marriages fail, and families grow apart when individuals fail to listen with genuine concern.”
The good news is you can improve your listening skills. By learning about the process and putting forth a conscious effort, you can become an effective listener.
The following ten guidelines, adapted from Thill and Bovee’s book, will help you become a better listener:
Minimize both internal and external distractions. You can’t always get rid of a headache, but you can close the windows if the driver of a truck is outside revving his engine.
Adjust your listening to the situation. If you’re listening to a lecture for an exam in Biology class, you’ll want to pay closer attention than if you’re watching the local news. In the former situation, you’ll probably take notes.
Show you’re listening by your nonverbal communication. You might nod, shake your head, or raise your eyebrows. Adjust your posture accordingly. Make eye contact.
If you’re listening to a speech or attending a business meeting, determine the most important points and develop a method to remember them. You might repeat them mentally or even jot them down briefly.
When you’re listening to a friend with a problem, demonstrate empathy. Show her you understand what she is going through.
Realize that people don’t necessarily want you to solve their problem. They may simply want to share how they are feeling. Save advice for another time, unless you’re asked for it.
Don’t interrupt. Let the person finish what he is saying before you explain your point of view or ask questions.
Don’t prejudge a person’s message by the way he looks. You can learn something from almost anyone.
Stay focused on the subject. It’s easy to let your mind wander, especially if the subject isn’t important to you. Train yourself to concentrate.
Remain clearheaded, even if the topic is emotional. Perhaps someone is discussing the victories of the recent election, and you were passionate about a losing candidate. When emotions become involved, you may end up in the middle of a shouting match, which will resolve nothing. Present your points calmly. You’ll gain credibility by doing so.
To truly listen to someone–not just to hear the words the other is saying but to pay attention to the message contained in the words–is the greatest compliment we can give another person. It means that the other is important enough to us so that we are willing to give him or her our most valuable commodity: our time.
It isn’t always easy to listen, especially when we are preoccupied with fifteen different things that needed doing an hour ago or when we simply aren’t interested in what the other person is saying. But making the effort pays off. Listening can provide a bond of intimacy that deepens our connection to others. It can enrich our personal relationships and help us make fewer mistakes in our jobs. It can increase our learning potential. And it might even earn you a special compliment: “I really like Jane. She’s such a good listener.”
How to Improve Your Listening Skills | 5 Strategies
by Betty Lochner on August 11, 2011
P1040957 150×150 How to Improve Your Listening Skills | 5 StrategiesEighty-two percent of people prefer to talk to great listeners, not great speakers.
– Ten3 Global Internet Pol
Being an engaged listener is one of the most important communication skills you can have.
Think of one person who you feel doesn’t listen to you. How do they make you feel?
We’ve all had that experience, but are we creating that experience for others? To take a quick listening quiz to see how you are doing.
Now, check out these 5 strategies you can practice that will improve your listening skills.
1. Slow your listening down. Take a minute to breathe and think about listening and to be aware and present. Listen from your head to your toes. Listen as if what you are hearing could change your life.
Factoid: We speak an average of 120 words per minute, but listen four times faster. Your mind fills the gap by thinking of other things and wandering off. Stay focused. Slow down your listening and listen more than you talk.
2. Pay attention. Watch out for shiny objects!
Stay focused. Don’t get distracted, but rather offer a statement of observation. For example: say, “It sounds like you’re angry” (or sad/upset/frustrated, etc.). Listen and watch for the tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions of the person you’re talking to.
3. Get clarification. Listen first, then, ask questions. Find a way to understand their story – their facts, their feelings, and their perceptions.
Say, “Tell me more,” or clarify by saying, “help me understand,” or “do you mean to say thatâ€¦?”
If you still don’t understand, ask again in a different way. Sometimes you may need to ask for different words. My daughter may say something like, “the thing didn’t work and it’s just not fair!” I may have to ask her to find a different word to use for “thing” to understand what she is trying to communicate.
4. Validate the speaker. Show some compassion for how they are feeling.
Say things like: “It sounds like you are feeling left out,” or, “It sounds like you are feeling tired and don’t want to go.”
5. Paraphrase. Repeat in your own words what was said to make sure you understand. Try this paraphrasing technique: “What I hear you saying isâ€¦” or “So you are saying thatâ€¦” And then check for understanding. Say, “Is that right?”
After listening carefully, respond genuinely. Don’t fake it. An insincere response is worse than no response. Give non-verbal communication. Use eye contact and head nods to show your concern and interest. And, here’s a tip: a response that demonstrates you really weren’t listening is not a good response.
A simple change in the way we listen will change the way we understand and how we respond. Active listening will increase the odds of success at understanding what the real issue is. This may take some practice, but you will get better at it, and it may even transform a relationship or two.
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How to Improve Listening Skills for Children
Apr 29, 2012 | By Shelley Frost
How to Improve Listening Skills for ChildrenPhoto Credit child image by saied shahinkiya from Fotolia.com
Active listening skills facilitate effective communication throughout life. Children often struggle with listening skills, missing key pieces of information in the communication process. Helping your child improve his listening skills at an early age benefits him in school and in his social relationships. Listening skills also help a child develop his reading skills, particularly when he hears a story as he sees the words on the page, according to Scholastic. Everyday activities give kids a chance to see and practice effective listening skills.
Model active listening skills by looking at your child when she talks to you. Repeat back what your child is saying to ensure that you understand. Modeling proper listening gives your child a reference for her own listening.
Ask your child to repeat what you said after you tell him something. For example, if you asked him to pick up his dirty laundry, put it in the hamper and wash his hands for dinner, have him repeat back the three things he needs to do. This gives him a chance to process what he was told and allows you to make sure he is listening to you.
Have conversations with your child about topics that interest her. This gives her a chance to engage in a real conversation, practicing both speaking and listening. The conversation has a purpose for the child since it relates to a topic she enjoys.
Practice following directions in the form of a game. Give your child a direction, and have him follow it. Make the directions entertaining so the activity is enjoyable. You might have him make a funny face, spin in a circle or walk like a duck. Move to more advanced verbal directions, such as building a tower with blocks using a specific pattern.
Read stories to your child, asking her to predict what will happen next. The prediction requires her to listen to the details to make a logical guess. After reading the story, ask the child to retell the story in her own words. Another option is to have her act out the story with toys as you read it. This makes your child listen to the words and understand what the words mean.
Borrow audio tapes of kids' books from the library. Let your child listen to the tapes as he follows along in the story.
Tell a story together as a group. One person starts the story, adding a few sentences. Each person adds a few more sentences to the story. BabyCenter suggests this activity because the participants have to listen to what everyone else says in order to add something to the story that makes sense.
Cook with your child. BabyCenter recommends reading the recipe to the child, having her listen to and follow each step in order to complete the recipe correctly.
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