Many marriages can be repaired when couples listen to each other. John Gottman, psychology professor of the University of Washington, learned after 25 years of studying marriages that “active listening” is highly important in solving conflicts2. We will be looking at two types of listening: listening one on one and listening in an audience. Actively listening to a lecture or speech can be very rewarding as opposed to merely hearing a speech. The difference between listening and hearings is that hearing is just letting sound enter your ear, while listening is paying close attention to what is being said.
We will focus first on listening in an audience. Listening to a speaker, such as a professor, is highly important if you want to succeed at your class or job. Companies lose thousands of dollars each year due to poor communication. According to a study by SIS International Research, roughly 70 percent of the employees of a business waste an average of 17.5 hours each week dealing with problems caused by poor communication1. That’s a huge chunk of time and money lost! So, how can we improve our listening skills? A study conducted by Larry Vandergrift, a University of Ottawa researcher, revealed some interesting facts about how to improve listening skills in the auditorium.
The following seven points will help you be a better listener of a lecture1:
1. Have goals for what you want to learn from the lecture or speech. Before you go to the lecture, predict what you think the speaker is going to say and think about what you would like to learn from the speech.
2. Before going to the speech, mentally review what you know about the topic of the speech. Your knowledge is a foundation which you can then build on. When you review your knowledge on the subject before the speech, you’ll be more aware of how the new information from the speech fits in with what you already know. This makes it easier to learn. Learning based on past knowledge is important for progress.
3. When you listen to the speech, listen for what is important or relevant to you and take notes. The things that stand out to you are important, and writing them down is a must. Often, we can’t easily remember everything we’ve heard.
4. Don’t get distracted. The people around you text messaging, the speaker’s resemblance to someone you know, the people standing up and leaving the lecture, and your own thoughts can cause you to get easily sidetracked. Don’t let them. Keep your eyes on the speaker and your thoughts on what is being said and what it means.
5. Don’t get thrown off by confusing or unfamiliar ideas, words, or details. Many professors and some speakers use words that are unfamiliar. Or, they may talk about things that go over your head. The key is to not be distracted from the points the speaker is trying to make.