The following are guidelines to follow in order to improve one’s listening skills in different situational contexts.
Improving Informational Listening
- Practice mindfulness. Concentrate and focus your attention on the message of the speaker. Monitor your thinking and recognize if your mind has already wandered.
- Minimize distractions. Be aware of the different kinds of noise that may distract your attention and affect your listening.
- Ask questions. Formulate questions while listening.Do not be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions to clarify confusing concepts means that you are paying attention and are interested in the topic.
- Avoid judgments. Make sure you understand the message first before jumping to conclusions.
- Separate the message from the speaker. Do not reject information immediately even if you do not think the speaker is credible.
- Use aids to recall. Note-taking and using mnemonics or repetition through paraphrasing allow you to recall important information.
- Organize information. Grouping similar ideas or concepts help you summarize the main points of the message.
Improving Critical Listening
- Recognize facts from opinions. You must not only be able to identify the difference between the speaker’s statements based on facts and based on opinions; it is also important that you recognize your own perceptions about the message. Opinions, however, are not always wrong
- Recognize assumptions. Be careful in accepting statements as facts to avoid being manipulatively persuaded. Examine the validity of the statements by looking for evidence. •
- Be open-minded. Being open to new ideas allows you to receive information that you may have previously rejected or disagreed with but may provide a different perspective. Ask how the message can be of benefit to you in some ways. And try to understand why the speaker values these ideas.
- Evaluate credibility. Determine if the speaker is an expert in the field. Identify if the speaker is biased.
- Take notes. Identifying the main points of the message through note-taking will help you understand how coherent the message is.
- Use reason and common sense. Determine whether or not a statement is illogical, unreasonable, or if it is credible. Examine the speaker’s reasoning.
Improving Empathic Listening
- Be mindful. Being mindful while engaging in empathic listening means that you pay attention not only to the words but also to the hidden meanings behind these words. Often speakers in these contexts do not express their emotions openly.
- Suspend judgment. Be careful not to judge or evaluate the speaker or the speaker’s experiences. Avoid giving advice unless requested as this may cause defensiveness on the part of the speaker. If you are to give advice, make sure it is constructive and delivered in a manner that would save face.
- Strive to understand the speaker’s point-of-view. Emphatic communication is two-way. Understanding each other’s point-of-view is essential. In trying to understand where the other one is coming from, one can see valid points from each other that may help both assess issues better.
- Express support. Support may come in the form of agreement, praise, reassurance, acknowledgment, or offers of help. Your expression of support must be sincere.