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After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
explain the difference between listening and hearing
understand the value of listening
identify the three attributes of active listeners
recognize barriers to effective listening
employ strategies to engage listeners
provide constructive feedback as a listener
“You’re not listening!” An unhappy teen shouts at a concerned parent. A frustrated parent yells this as a toddler runs through a parking lot. A woman offers these three words as a parting shot before hanging up on her significant other. We can imagine all these scenarios and more; all of them rooted in a speaker wondering if his or her audience is truly listening.
Public speaking requires an audience to hear. What makes public speaking truly effective is when the audience hears and listens. You might think the two are synonymous. But they aren’t, as you will soon understand. In a classic listening text, Adler (1983) notes, “How utterly amazing is the general assumption that the ability to listen well is a natural gift for which no training is required.” Since listening requires great effort, this chapter offers the skills needed to listen effectively.
Developing your listening skills can have applications throughout your educational, personal, and professional lives. You will begin by examining the difference between hearing and listening. This module will also help you understand your role as a listener, not only in a public speaking class, but also in the world. You’ll read about attributes of an active listener, barriers to listening, and strategies to listen better. Finally, building on valuable lessons regarding listening, this chapter concludes with suggestions public speakers can use to encourage audiences to listen more attentively.