|Listening Can Be Learned
Republished with permission from the Whitman College Peer Listener Handbook
Note: The handbook is an excellent resource, especially when listening in person,
however it does not perfectly mesh with LiveWire's "Peer Answers" philosophy.
Listening is a skill. It can be learned. Dr. Edward Wakin, a professor of communications at Fordham University, offers these guidelines for better listening:
- Be interested and show it. Genuine concern and a lively curiosity encourage others to speak freely. Interest also sharpens your attention and builds on itself
- Tune in to the other person. Try to understand his or her viewpoint, assumptions, needs and system of beliefs.
- Hold your fire. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Hear the speaker out. Plan your response only after you are certain that you've gotten the whole message.
- Look for the main ideas. Avoid being distracted by details. Focus on the key issue. You may have to dig hard to find it.
- Watch for feelings. Often people talk to "get something off their chests." Feelings, not facts, may be the main message.
- Monitor your own feelings and point of view. Each of us listens differently. Our convictions and emotions filter-even distort-what we hear. Be aware of your own attitudes, prejudices, cherished beliefs and your emotional reaction to the message.
- Notice nonverbal language. A shrug, a smile, a nervous laugh, gestures, facial expressions and body positions speak volumes. Start to read them.
- Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. We often enter conversations with our minds already made up, at least partially, on the basis of past experience. Prejudgments can shut out new messages.
- Work at listening. Hearing is passive. Our nervous system does the work. Listening is active. It takes mental effort and attention.
- Get feedback. Make certain you're really listening. Ask a question. Confirm with the speaker what he or she actually said.
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