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listening

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listening
Definition:

The active process of receiving and responding to spoken (and sometimes unspoken) messages.

Listening is one of the subjects studied in the field of language arts and in the discipline of conversation analysis.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "[L]istening does not mean simply maintaining a polite silence while you are rehearsing in your mind the speech you are going to make the next time you can grab a conversational opening. Nor does listening mean waiting alertly for the flaws in the other fellow's argument so that later you can mow him down. Listening means trying to see the problem the way the speaker sees it--which means not sympathy, which is feeling for him, but empathy, which is experiencing with him. Listening requires entering actively and imaginatively into the other fellow's situation and trying to understand a frame of reference different from your own. This is not always an easy task.

    "But a good listener does not merely remain silent. He asks questions. However, these questions must avoid all implications (whether in tone of voice or in wording) of skepticism or challenge or hostility. They must clearly be motivated by curiosity about the speaker's views."
    (S.I. Hayakawa, "How to Attend a Conference." The Use and Misuse of Language, ed. by S.I. Hayakawa. Fawcett Premier, 1962)


  • Ten Keys to Effective Listening

    1. Find areas of interest.
    2. Judge content, not delivery.
    3. Hold your fire.
    4. Listen for ideas.
    5. Be flexible.
    6. Work at listening.
    7. Resist distractions.
    8. Exercise your mind.
    9. Keep your mind open.
    10. Anticipate, summarize, weigh the evidence, and look between the lines.
    (adapted from a brochure distributed in the 1980s by the Sperry Corporation, now Unisys)


  • "Listening is more complex than merely hearing. It is a process that consists of four stages: sensing and attending, understanding and interpreting, remembering, and responding . . .. The stages occur in sequence but we are generally unaware of them."
    (Sheila Steinberg, An Introduction to Communication Studies. Juta and Company Ltd., 2007)


  • "The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the less."
    (Zeno of Citium)


  • Elements and Levels of Listening
    "There are four elements of good listening:

    1. attention--the focused perception of both visual and verbal stimuli
    2. hearing--the physiological act of 'opening the gates to your ears'
    3. understanding--assigning meaning to the messages received
    4. remembering--the storing of meaningful information
    In addition to the four elements, there are also four levels of listening: acknowledging, sympathizing, paraphrasing, and empathizing. The four levels of listening range from passive to interactive when considered separately. However, the most effective listeners are able to project all four levels at the same time. That is, they demonstrate that they are paying attention and making an effort to understand and evaluate what it is they are hearing, and they complete the process by demonstrating through their responses their level of comprehension and interest in what the speaker is saying."
    (Marvin Gottlieb, Managing Group Process. Praeger, 2003)


  • Active Listening
    "Active listening involves six skills: paying attention, holding judgment, reflecting, clarifying, summarizing, and sharing. Each skill contributes to the active listening mind-set, and each skill includes various techniques or behaviors. These skills are not mutually exclusive. For example, paying attention isn't something you stop doing when you start holding judgment. Nor are the skills consistently weighed in importance. In one conversation, clarifying may take much effort and time; in another conversation, gaining clarity and understanding may be quick and easy."
    (Michael H. Hoppe, Active Listening: Improve Your Ability to Listen and Lead. Center for Creative Leadership, 2006)


  • William H. Gass on Listening to Literature
    "[W]e must always listen to the language; it is our first sign of the presence of a master's hand; and when we do that, when we listen, it is because we have first pronounced the words and performed the text, so when we listen, we hear, hear ourselves, singing the saying, and now we are real readers, for we are participating in the making, are moving the tune along the line, because no one who loves literature can follow these motions, these sentences, half sentences, of William Gaddis, very far without halting and holding up their arms and crying out, Hallelujah, there is something good in this gosh-awful, god-empty world."
    (William H. Gass, "Mr. Gaddis and His Goddamn Books." A Temple of Texts. Alfred A. Knopf, 2006)


  • The Lighter Side of Listening
    "No one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it for a while you'll see why."
    (Mignon McLaughlin, The Complete Neurotic's Notebook. Castle Books, 1981)
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