Improving listening ability is a multifaceted undertaking. Listed below are ways to accomplish this task.
Listening vs. Speaking
Many of us were required to take a speech communications course while in college. However, probably none of us had to take a listening course. Some of us are comfortable with the concept of speaking in a way that positively impacts communication. Far fewer of us are comfortable, or even think about, our listening skill set. Listening is equally, if not more, important than speaking, for effective communication to occur.
Effective listening involves using the following skill set:
Through effective listening, the receiver can grasp the context of the message being sent by the sender.
Active Listening Exercise
This exercise gives students practice actively listening to others, a skill that incorporates both listening and giving feedback.
Guide for this exercise:
- One team member is the speaker, and the other members are the listeners.
- The speaker takes a minute or so to express an idea, opinion, thought, or feeling about what the team is working on at the time.
- The speaker then calls on one of the listeners to paraphrase what was expressed.
- The speaker then gives feedback to the listener regarding the accuracy of the response.
- The listener must then hone the response until the speaker is satisfied with the accuracy of the response.
- Once the speaker is satisfied, the listener can follow up by asking, “Is there anything else about that?”, thus continuing the process.
- Once this is completed, the roles can be changed and the process repeated.
Ladder of Inquiry
One of the advanced tools that can help people practice the discipline of listening more actively and effectively is the ladder of inference. The ladder of inference can help listeners break their jumps from observable data to choices of action into different rungs on a ladder. The first rung is observable data. On the second rung, people select the data they will use and ignore the rest. Then, third, people use their personal and cultural beliefs to construct meaning for the data. Fourth, they make assumptions using the added meaning. Fifth, they draw conclusions from the assumptions and selected data. Sixth, they use the conclusions to adopt personal beliefs to use in the future. Finally, they select an action based on their beliefs. The ladder of inference and a simple example of observing a student who was thirty minutes late to a team meeting are shown below.7 Faculty members might use the ladder of inference to help team members make their chains of reasoning explicit to themselves and share these with others on their teams.
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