What is the difference between hearing someone and listening to them?
- Hearing – a physical response that involves the perception of sound waves. You must hear to listen, but you do not need to listen to hear.
- Understanding – involves analyzing the literal and symbolic meaning of the sounds you hear, given the context you are in. Successful listening depends on the listeners ability to correctly understand the intended meaning and context of the sounds.
- Remembering – involves adding the interpreted message to the mind’s “memory bank” and must be done carefully because, just as your attention is selective in listening, your memory can also be selective. What you remember may not reflect what was originally seen or heard.
- Evaluating – involves weighing evidence, sorting facts from opinions, and determining the presence or absence of bias or prejudice in a message. This step can only be started after a message is delivered or else it inhibits your ability to attend to the message.
- Responding – completes the listening process and involves providing appropriate verbal and non-verbal feedback to the speaker.
What is Active Listening?
Why is it important to actively listen?
Overall, the relationship and communication benefits derived from learning active listening skills are also applicable for youth and lead to lasting advantages for students both inside and outside the classroom. Active listening has the potential to enrich students' social, emotional, behavioural, and academic lives. For teachers, active listening is essential to be able to effectively engage with students and parents, and to build trusting relationships that lead to outcomes for students.
Listening: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
- Distracted listening – the “multitasker” who is “listening” while also working their way through chores, emails and mindless tasks that have piled up. Although they say that they’re listening, their actions are telling the person that they are not important enough for them to stop what they’re doing.
- Impatient listening – the “fortune-teller” who finishes everyone’s sentences, responds to questions or statements before they have fully materialized, and rushes people through their story because they “already know” where it is heading.
- Filtered listening – the “projector” whose interpretation of what they hear is based on past experiences or beliefs that are projected as a future expectation.
- Selective listening – the “selectively deaf” who hear only what they want to hear, thereby reinforcing their own stories of the person based on the person’s age, gender, profession, dress, success, and personal relationship.
- Verbal-only listening – the “hearer” who hears the words someone is saying but does not listen to the story or message they are conveying and neglects any non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, eye contact, tone, attitude, and disposition.
- Face the speaker – show your attentiveness and engagement in the conversation by sitting up straight, leaning forward, keeping an open body language, and facing the speaker.
- Maintain eye contact – hold eye contact to the degree that feels comfortable.
- Minimize external distractions – turn off your phone or put down your book and ask the speaker to do the same. Go to a quiet and private location where you can talk without being interrupted or observed.
- Minimize internal distractions – be mindful and present in the moment. Notice when your thoughts start wandering and continuously refocus your attention on the speaker and what they are saying.
- Respond appropriately – respond to the speaker with your facial expressions (ex. raising your eyebrows), actions (ex. nodding your head, touching their hand), and words (ex. murmuring “uh-huh”).
- Don’t plan ahead – focus on what the speaker is saying rather than planning on how you will respond. The conversation will follow a logical flow so long as you stay present.
- Keep an open mind – don’t make assumptions about what the person is going to say and try not to pass judgements based on your own values and beliefs. Ask inquisitive and respectful questions to get a better understanding of their perspective.
- Listening does not equal problem-solving – unless they ask for advice, try not to give suggestions or feedback without asking. Sometimes, listening just requires you to say “That sounds like a lot. I am here for you if you need me”.
- Don’t interrupt – let the speaker finish their thoughts, even if they are complaining about you. Try not to jump into defensive action or fixer mode, and don’t project your experiences onto them by finishing their sentences.
- Engage – ask questions for clarification, summarize what you hear them saying, prompt the speaker to reflect on their experiences and dig deeper.
Some of these skills for effective listening are summarized by the acronym SLANT, which stands for:
SLANT has been used by teachers as a tool for explaining how attention, respect and friendship are communicated through body language and non-verbal cues in addition to verbal cues. SLANT can be used in small groups, class discussions, or working with partners. This tool helps students have productive and meaningful discussions.
Where can I learn more?
What will students learn?
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to…
- Clearly explain the differences between listening and hearing
- Describe the five stages of the listening process
- Understand what it means to be an active listener and why active listening is important
- Use active listening skills to improve personal relationships and enhance learning
- Identify and apply the five components of SLANT listening
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