Listening in English: How to Be an Effective Listener
Today, the act of communication has never been more important. Social media has done a lot of good when it comes to distributing information. However, it seems to have done more harm when it comes to how people socialize. Nowadays, people would rather socialize through their gadgets, than actually talk face to face. With this development, the listening skills of most young people have seemingly diminished. Many people do not know how to listen. When people talk, all they do is hear what is being said. They do not make any effort to understand at all. Since listening and communication come hand in hand, language learners should develop their skills in listening in English.
What is the difference between Active and Passive listening in English?
Before moving forward, it is important to know the difference between active and passive listening. First of all, there are two types of communication. First is active communication. Second is passive communication. Then, there are two types of listeners as well—the passive and the active listener.
Now, an active listener is someone who engages with the speaker. An active listener will show that he or she is totally involved in the conversation. An active listener repeats a statement to convey understanding. He or she could even ask questions to receive clarifications. An active listener will nod or shake his or her head and perform other physical reactions to show the speaker that he or she is listening.
On the other hand, a passive listener will just take everything in. A passive speaker does not make any effort to convey that he or she understands what is being said. There will be no nodding of the head, or asking of questions. A passive speaker will not attempt to repeat a statement to show understanding. Nor will a passive listener willingly ask questions to receive clarifications.
So, which is better? The answer depends on what the listener hopes to achieve in the conversation. Being a good listener has become a rare gift. But this doesn’t mean it cannot be done. Here’s how to improve your skills in listening in English.
Try to maintain eye contact.
The focus is important in developing skills in listening in English, or any other language. Having focus means you know where to direct your attention. And one way of focusing your attention is by maintaining eye contact. To maintain good eye contact, try to stare directly into the eyes of the person you are talking to. However, if you find it difficult to stare directly into the eyes of another person, try looking at a spot just above that person’s ear. As a matter of fact, you can just go ahead and stare at the person’s ear. Maintaining eye contact shows two things. Firstly, it shows that you are paying close attention. Secondly, it shows that you are highly interested.
It is not enough to be comfortable in maintaining eye contact. Knowing how to pay attention is another important factor in developing skills in listening in English. Nowadays, a lot of young people find it hard to stay focused. Even more, pay attention. Pay better attention by limiting distractions. For example, if you are attending a convention or a class, try to sit at or near the front. In this way, you can avoid most distractions that mostly happen near the back or near entrances. By staying in front, you are not just sitting close to the speaker, but you can pay attention better, too.
Have an open mind.
An effective listener must have an open mind. Conversations grow from the exchange of ideas. If you are not receptive to what other people say, you do not just come off as close-minded, you are also pushing people away. Nobody wants to spend time convincing people to listen to their ideas. However, people will take delight in participating in an intellectual debate.
While listening in English, do your best to see the bigger picture.
If you do decide to participate in an intellectual debate, you have to do your best to see the bigger picture. A debate requires both sides to consider each side. Otherwise, it’s just going to be a fight between whoever has the best rebuttals. When you force yourself to look at the bigger picture, you are also making room for better arguments. Remember, a healthy argument consists of the exchange of ideas, not insults. You cannot achieve this with a closed mind.
Listen to understand, not to give an answer.
A lot of people listen just for the sake of giving an answer. That is, they refuse to listen intently. They refuse to look at the bigger picture. Lastly, they refuse to accept any difference in opinion. For example, someone who chooses to open up about a problem may just be in need of someone to listen. Not someone to berate or give unsolicited advice.
To have superior skills while listening in English, you should be able to decide whether you are to be an active or passive listener. Going back to the example above, this scenario requires a passive listener. However, if a person opens up about a problem and asks for advice, this scenario requires an active listener.
Do not interrupt.
Although being an active listener means you are allowed to ask questions, this does not give you the license to be rude. Allow the speaker to finish talking before you ask questions or give clarifications. In doing this, you are showing whoever you’re talking to that what they are saying is important. But this does not mean that you should refrain from asking questions. In fact, asking questions is a great way of showing how attentive you are to whatever is being said.
Learn to understand body language.
Lastly, a good listener must also be a good observer. In listening in English, you must also pay close attention to non-verbal cues. For example, sudden pallor might mean that the speaker is not feeling well, while a clenched fist could mean anger. Half of what is truly being said lies in the person’s actions. Once you finally master how to read both verbal and non-verbal cues, you can consider yourself a good listener.
Being a good listener isn’t hard, but it is a skill that takes some time to perfect. Do you know of other ways to improve listening in English? Don’t forget to share them in the comments section.
Want to know how much you understood this article? Take this short test to determine your level of comprehension.
TRUE or FALSE: An active listener is more likely to ask questions during a conversation.
TRUE or FALSE: Eye contact should be avoided as it makes people uncomfortable.
TRUE or FALSE: Communication is made up of entirely verbal cues.
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