In today's fast paced world with it's many distractions, active listening is a vital skill that some students may struggle with on a daily basis. This is not surprising given a study carried out by Get In Front Communications, which found we think at anywhere between 1000-3000 words per minute, yet only listen at a rate of 125-250 word per minute.
Despite this, active listening not only propels you ahead with your studies, it also builds confidence, feeds motivation and is one of the most important elements of effective communication. As humans, we spend 80 percent of our waking hours communicating and with the influx of social media, Twitter and Facebook, you could be forgiven for thinking that writing is the most important part, but, according to various studies, listening forms up to 45% of all communication styles, with 30% spent speaking and 25% reading and writing. We are all guilty of thinking about what we will have for dinner, emotional problems or an upcoming party but, allowing distractions to take over your mind instead of listening can have a detrimental effect on your studies and learning progression. So, how do you begin to implement active listening in to your life and studies?
Distractions are the number one barrier to effective listening and the first step is to limit them. If you have a mobile phone, turn it off. Avoid hushed conversations with other students during classes and concentrate on the speaker. It can be hard to listen attentively in a room full of other people, if you struggle with this, consider streaming a podcast of the class or lecture if available, to listen to in your own time. This will enable you to go back over the most important points if you need to.
Keep An Open Mind
Keeping an open mind is a good way to start a class or lecture on the right path. If you enter the classroom with the view that the subject is boring, you won't understand it or a general disinterest in learning, then this will have a severe impact on the way you learn. Get yourself in the right frame of mind, look forward to your learning experience and decide to take something from it. You will be surprised at how this kind of thought process will have a positive outcome on your studies.
Hush Your Internal Dialogue
This is a tough one to master as we all have internal chatter going on. To counteract this, avoid thinking about things unrelated to your learning. Listen to cues from the speaker, if they make an important point or ask a question, really focus on what they are saying. Another way to help in this area is by looking up basic mediation techniques online and start using them in the classroom. You don't need to be up at 6am levitating above your bed for this to work, just practice clearing your mind of other things and concentrating on what you need to.
Practice good listening out of the classroom. If you have a friend who needs to talk, let them. Don't butt in, change the subject or work out what you are going to say next, just listen. If you have podcast streams available in your areas of study, use them. This kind of learning tool is a useful way to encourage active listening. If your mind starts to wander, recognise it, pull it back and focus on the subject: you can always go back to the beginning if you miss any. This approach will also prepare you for a live class.
Listen For Clues
Your teacher or lecturer will provide vital clues to the importance of what they are saying. By learning to recognise tone of voice, body language and an emphasis on certain words, you will begin to identify when to make an extra effort to listen, take notes or respond appropriately to what is being said.
Listen With Your Whole Body
It is difficult to actively listen if you are slumped back in your chair, daydreaming or doodling. Sit up straight, lean towards the speaker with one ear towards them and you will almost trick your body into listening to what is being said. This is also a great way to show interest in what a friend or family member is saying to you. This type of listening shows that you care about the speaker and people will respond better to you because of it.