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In our sender-oriented society, listening is often overlooked as an important part of the communication process. Listening is a primary means through which we learn new information, which can help us meet instrumental needs as we learn things that helps us complete certain tasks at work or school and get things done in general. ListeningThe learned process of receiving, interpreting, recalling, evaluating, and responding to verbal and nonverbal messages. Before we can engage other steps in the listening process, we must take in stimuli through our senses. The first stage of the listening process is receiving stimuli through auditory and visual channels.
Our chapter on perception discusses some of the ways in which incoming stimuli are filtered. During the interpreting stage of listening, we combine the visual and auditory information we receive and try to make meaning out of that information using schemata. Our ability to recall information is dependent on some of the physiological limits of how memory works. Our sensory storage is very large in terms of capacity but limited in terms of length of storage. As stimuli are organized and interpreted, they make their way to short-term memory where they either expire and are forgotten or are transferred to long-term memory. Although recall is an important part of the listening process, there isna€™t a direct correlation between being good at recalling information and being a good listener. When we evaluate something, we make judgments about its credibility, completeness, and worth. Studying communication is a great way to build your critical thinking skills, because you learn much more about the taken-for-granted aspects of how communication works, which gives you tools to analyze and critique messages, senders, and contexts. Responding entails sending verbal and nonverbal messages that indicate attentiveness and understanding or a lack thereof. We send verbal and nonverbal feedback while another person is talking and after they are done. Listeners respond to speakers nonverbally during a message using back-channel cues and verbally after a message using paraphrasing and clarifying questions.
Paraphrasing is a responding behavior that can also show that you understand what was communicated. Understanding how listening works provides the foundation we need to explore why we listen, including various types and styles of listening. In terms of academics, poor listening skills were shown to contribute significantly to failure in a persona€™s first year of college.Wendy S.
Poor listening skills, lack of conciseness, and inability to give constructive feedback have been identified as potential communication challenges in professional contexts. Listening serves many purposes, and different situations require different types of listening. Discriminative listeningA focused and usually instrumental type of listening that is primarily physiological and occurs mostly at the receiving stage of the listening process. Empathetic listeningThe most challenging form of listening, which occurs when we try to understand or experience what a speaker is thinking or feeling.
The truth and reconciliation process seeks to heal relations between opposing sides by uncovering all pertinent facts, distinguishing truth from lies, and allowing for acknowledgement, appropriate public mourning, forgiveness and healinga€¦The focus often is on giving victims, witnesses and even perpetrators a chance to publicly tell their stories without fear of prosecution. Just as there are different types of listening, there are also different styles of listening. People-oriented listeners are concerned about the needs and feelings of others and may get distracted from a specific task or the content of a message in order to address feelings.
People-oriented listenersListeners who are concerned about the emotional states of others and listen with the purpose of offering support in interpersonal relationships. Action-oriented listenersListeners who focus on what action needs to take place in regards to a received message and try to formulate an organized way to initiate that action. Content-oriented listenersListeners who like to listen to complex information and evaluate the content of a message, often from multiple perspectives, before drawing conclusions. Time-oriented listenersListeners who are more concerned about time limits and time lines than they are with the content or senders of a message. Getting integrated: Listening is a learned process and skill that we can improve on with concerted effort.
Listening is the process of receiving, interpreting, recalling, evaluating, and responding to verbal and nonverbal messages. Discriminative listening is the most basic form of listening, and we use it to distinguish between and focus on specific sounds. People-oriented listeners are concerned with othersa€™ needs and feelings, which may distract from a task or the content of a message. The recalling stage of the listening process is a place where many people experience difficulties. Listening scholars have noted that empathetic listening is the most difficult type of listening. Environmental factors such as lighting, temperature, and furniture affect our ability to listen.
Physiological noise, like environmental noise, can interfere with our ability to process incoming information.
Aside from the barriers to effective listening that may be present in the environment or emanate from our bodies, cognitive limits, a lack of listening preparation, difficult or disorganized messages, and prejudices can interfere with listening.
Our ability to process more information than what comes from one speaker or source creates a barrier to effective listening. The difference between speech and thought rate connects to personal barriers to listening, as personal concerns are often the focus of competing thoughts that can take us away from listening and challenge our ability to concentrate on othersa€™ messages. Another common barrier to effective listening that stems from the speech and thought rate divide is response preparation. Media multitasking specifically refers to the use of multiple forms of media at the same time, and it can have positive and negative effects on listening.Fleura Bardhi, Andres J.
Media multitasking can also give people a sense of control, as they use multiple technologies to access various points of information to solve a problem or complete a task. What strategies do you or could you use to help minimize the negative effects of media multitasking?
Should laptops, smartphones, and other media devices be used by students during college classes? We exhibit prejudice in our listening in several ways, some of which are more obvious than others. The previously discussed barriers to effective listening may be difficult to overcome because they are at least partially beyond our control.
Conversations unfold as a series of turns, and turn taking is negotiated through a complex set of verbal and nonverbal signals that are consciously and subconsciously received. Unintentional interruptions can still be considered bad listening if they result from mindless communication.
EavesdroppingA bad listening practice that involves a planned attempt to secretly listen to a conversation.
Eavesdropping entails intentionally listening in on a conversation that you are not a part of. Aggressive listeningA bad listening practice in which people pay attention in order to attack something a speaker says.
Although Summera€™s initial response to Deba€™s idea is seemingly appropriate and positive, she asks the question because she has already planned her upcoming aggressive response. Narcissistic listeningSelf-centered and self-absorbed listening in which listeners try to make the interaction about them.
My boss has been really unfair to me lately and hasna€™t been letting me work around my class schedule. Narcissistic listeners, given their self-centeredness, may actually fool themselves into thinking that they are listening and actively contributing to a conversation.
Environmental and physical barriers to effective listening include furniture placement, environmental noise such as sounds of traffic or people talking, physiological noise such as a sinus headache or hunger, and psychological noise such as stress or anger. Cognitive barriers to effective listening include the difference between speech and thought rate that allows us a€?extra rooma€? to think about other things while someone is talking and limitations in our ability or willingness to concentrate or pay attention.
Interruptions that are unintentional or serve an important or useful purpose are not considered bad listening. Distorted listening occurs when we incorrectly recall information, skew information to fit our expectations or existing schemata, or add material to embellish or change information.
Eavesdropping is a planned attempt to secretly listen to a conversation, which is a violation of the speakersa€™ privacy. Aggressive listening is a bad listening practice in which people pay attention to a speaker in order to attack something they say. Narcissistic listening is self-centered and self-absorbed listening in which listeners try to make the interaction about them by interrupting, changing the subject, or drawing attention away from others. Pseudo-listening is a€?fake listening,a€? in that people behave like they are paying attention and listening when they actually are not.
We are capable of thinking faster than the speed at which the average person speaks, which allows us some room to put mental faculties toward things other than listening. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Faculty Development website. Eye contact, nodding, small facial expressions and the occasional echoing of words are all examples of active listening.
See the license for more details, but that basically means you can share this book as long as you credit the author (but see below), don't make money from it, and do make it available to everyone else under the same terms. However, the publisher has asked for the customary Creative Commons attribution to the original publisher, authors, title, and book URI to be removed. Yet research shows that adults spend about 45 percent of their time listening, which is more than any other communicative activity.
The act of listening to our relational partners provides support, which is an important part of relational maintenance and helps us meet our relational needs.
Like the communication process, listening has cognitive, behavioral, and relational elements and doesna€™t unfold in a linear, step-by-step fashion. In any given communication encounter, it is likely that we will return to the receiving stage many times as we process incoming feedback and new messages. Some noise interferes primarily with hearing, which is the physical process of receiving stimuli through internal and external components of the ears and eyes, and some interferes with listening, which is the cognitive process of processing the stimuli taken in during hearing. The interpreting stage engages cognitive and relational processing as we take in informational, contextual, and relational cues and try to connect them in meaningful ways to previous experiences. We can hold large amounts of unsorted visual information but only for about a tenth of a second. Short-term memoryA mental storage capability that can retain stimuli for twenty seconds to one minute.
Some people have excellent memories and recall abilities and can tell you a very accurate story from many years earlier during a situation in which they should actually be listening and not showing off their recall abilities.
Critical thinking and listening skills also help you take a more proactive role in the communication process rather than being a passive receiver of messages that may not be credible, complete, or worthwhile. From our earlier discussion of the communication model, you may be able to connect this part of the listening process to feedback. In general, listening helps us achieve all the communication goals (physical, instrumental, relational, and identity) that we learned about in Chapter 1 "Introduction to Communication Studies". We shouldna€™t underestimate the power of listening to make someone else feel better and to open our perceptual field to new sources of information.
In order to reach dialogue, people must have a degree of open-mindedness and a commitment to civility that allows them to be empathetic while still allowing them to believe in and advocate for their own position.
People may be categorized as one or more of the following listeners: people-oriented, action-oriented, content-oriented, and time-oriented listeners. They like in-depth information and like to learn about multiple sides of a topic or hear multiple perspectives on an issue. Improving our listening skills can benefit us in academic, professional, personal, and civic contexts. Action-oriented listeners prefer listening to well-organized and precise information and are more concerned about solving an issue than they are about supporting the speaker. What techniques do you use or could you use to improve your recall of certain information such as peoplea€™s names, key concepts from your classes, or instructions or directions given verbally? A room that is too dark can make us sleepy, just as a room that is too warm or cool can raise awareness of our physical discomfort to a point that it is distracting.
This is considered a physical barrier to effective listening because it emanates from our physical body. Whether you call it multitasking, daydreaming, glazing over, or drifting off, we all cognitively process other things while receiving messages. Response preparationOur tendency to rehearse what we are going to say next while a speaker is still talking. An employee may be able to use her iPad to look up information needed to address a concern raised during a business meeting. Unfortunately, most people have never received any formal training or instruction related to listening. If one listens one may be convinced.a€? Unfortunately, some of our default ways of processing information and perceiving others lead us to rigid ways of thinking. For example, we may claim to be in a hurry and only selectively address the parts of a message that we agree with or that arena€™t controversial. Physical barriers, cognitive limitations, and perceptual biases exist within all of us, and it is more realistic to believe that we can become more conscious of and lessen them than it is to believe that we can eliminate them altogether. In this sense, conversational turn taking has been likened to a dance where communicators try to avoid stepping on each othera€™s toes. As wea€™ve already learned, intended meaning is not as important as the meaning that is generated in the interaction itself. Sometimes we just get the order of information wrong, which can have relatively little negative effects if we are casually recounting a story, annoying effects if we forget the order of turns (left, right, left or right, left, right?) in our driving directions, or very negative effects if we recount the events of a crime out of order, which leads to faulty testimony at a criminal trial. People might think another person is talking about them behind their back or that someone is engaged in illegal or unethical behavior. I think it would be really good to be able to go pick our own tomatoes and peppers and cilantro to make homemade salsa. Summera€™s aggression toward Deb isna€™t about a salsa garden; ita€™s about a building frustration with what Summer perceives as Deba€™s lack of follow-through on her ideas. We all have the urge to share our own stories during interactions, because other peoplea€™s communication triggers our own memories about related experiences.
When interrupting becomes a habit or is used in an attempt to dominate a conversation, then it is a barrier to effective listening.
Well, the funnel technique gives us a useful visual reference for thinking about questioning skills. Sometimes it may be necessary to repeat or rephrase this question to give the appraisee more thinking time and further opportunities to raise information.
But for a whole host of reasons it can be very challenging to stay focused and really listen to someone, particularly in a more formal discussion such as an appraisal. You may also download a PDF copy of this book (291 MB) or just this chapter (12 MB), suitable for printing or most e-readers, or a .zip file containing this book's HTML files (for use in a web browser offline).
Listening to what others say about us helps us develop an accurate self-concept, which can help us more strategically communicate for identity needs in order to project to others our desired self. We begin to engage with the listening process long before we engage in any recognizable verbal or nonverbal communication.
Models of processes are informative in that they help us visualize specific components, but keep in mind that they do not capture the speed, overlapping nature, or overall complexity of the actual process in action.

This part of the listening process is more physiological than other parts, which include cognitive and relational elements. Some stimuli never make it in, some are filtered into subconsciousness, and others are filtered into various levels of consciousness based on their salience. It is through the interpreting stage that we may begin to understand the stimuli we have received. By comparison, we can hold large amounts of unsorted auditory information for longera€”up to four seconds.
Recall is an important part of the listening process because it is most often used to assess listening abilities and effectiveness. In terms of completeness, we try to a€?read between the linesa€? and evaluate the message in relation to what we know about the topic or situation being discussed.
One danger within the evaluation stage of listening is to focus your evaluative lenses more on the speaker than the message.
Later, we will learn more specifics about how to encode and decode the verbal and nonverbal cues sent during the responding stage, but we all know from experience some signs that indicate whether a person is paying attention and understanding a message or not. Wolvin, a€?The Differential Impact of a Basic Communication Course on Perceived Communication Competencies in Class, Work, and Social Contexts,a€? Communication Education 42 (1993): 215a€“17. DiSalvo, a€?A Summary of Current Research Identifying Communication Skills in Various Organizational Contexts,a€? Communication Education 29 (1980), 283a€“90. Empathetic listening can help us expand our self and social awareness by learning from other peoplea€™s experiences and by helping us take on different perspectives.
For example, when we listen to empathize with others, our communication will likely be supportive and open, which will then lead the other person to feel a€?hearda€? and supported and hopefully view the interaction positively.Graham D. Here we engage in listening to scan and monitor our surroundings in order to isolate particular auditory or visual stimuli. This type of listening is not evaluative and is common in teaching and learning contexts ranging from a student listening to an informative speech to an out-of-towner listening to directions to the nearest gas station.
A critical listener evaluates a message and accepts it, rejects it, or decides to withhold judgment and seek more information. An excellent example of critical and empathetic listening in action is the international Truth and Reconciliation movement. Research finds that 40 percent of people have more than one preferred listening style, and that they choose a style based on the listening situation.Graham D.
They may cut people off and make quick decisions (taking short cuts or cutting corners) when they think they have enough information.
People-oriented listeners can be characterized as a€?supportersa€? who are caring and understanding. These listeners are frustrated by disorganization, because it detracts from the possibility of actually doing something.
These listeners can be thought of as a€?learners,a€? and they also ask questions to solicit more information to fill out their understanding of an issue. These listeners can be thought of as a€?executives,a€? and they tend to actually verbalize the time constraints under which they are operating. We then interpret auditory and visual stimuli in order to make meaning out of them based on our existing schemata. Content-oriented listeners enjoy processing complicated information and are typically viewed as credible because they view an issue from multiple perspectives before making a decision.
At the interpreting stage, complex or abstract information may be difficult to relate to previous experiences, making it difficult to reach understanding. If you think of your listening mind as a wall of ten televisions, you may notice that in some situations five of the ten televisions are tuned into one channel. This gap between speech rate and thought rate gives us an opportunity to side-process any number of thoughts that can be distracting from a more important message. The negative effects of media multitasking have received much attention in recent years, as people question the decreasing attention span within our society.
She could then e-mail that link to the presenter, who could share it with the room through his laptop and a LCD projector.
Although many of us like to think that wea€™re good multitaskers, some research indicates otherwise. What restrictions or guidelines for use could instructors provide that would capitalize on the presence of such media to enhance student learning and help minimize distractions?
Although some people think listening skills just develop over time, competent listening is difficult, and enhancing listening skills takes concerted effort. In terms of message construction, poorly structured messages or messages that are too vague, too jargon filled, or too simple can present listening difficulties. When we engage in prejudiced listening, we are usually trying to preserve our ways of thinking and avoid being convinced of something different.
We can also operate from a state of denial where we avoid a subject or person altogether so that our views are not challenged. Other a€?bad listeninga€? practices may be habitual, but they are easier to address with some concerted effort.
One of the most frequent glitches in the turn-taking process is interruption, but not all interruptions are considered a€?bad listening.a€? An interruption could be unintentional if we misread cues and think a person is done speaking only to have him or her start up again at the same time we do. So if you interrupt unintentionally, but because you were only half-listening, then the interruption is still evidence of bad listening.
Rationalization is another form of distorted listening through which we adapt, edit, or skew incoming information to fit our existing schemata. Aggressive listeners like to ambush speakers in order to critique their ideas, personality, or other characteristics. Aside from engaging in aggressive listening because of built-up frustration, such listeners may also attack othersa€™ ideas or mock their feelings because of their own low self-esteem and insecurities.
Narcissistic listeners redirect the focus of the conversation to them by interrupting or changing the topic. It is generally more competent to withhold sharing our stories until the other person has been able to speak and we have given the appropriate support and response. Pseudo-listeningBehaving as if youa€™re paying attention to a speaker when youa€™re actually not. Working down the narrowing body of the funnel we use a series of probing questions to draw out further specific information and help complete the picture. For one thing, it can be tempting to think ahead to what your next question is going to be.
Overall, improving our listening skills can help us be better students, better relational partners, and more successful professionals.
It is only after listening for months as infants that we begin to consciously practice our own forms of expression. The stages of the listening process are receiving, interpreting, recalling, evaluating, and responding. We primarily take in information needed for listening through auditory and visual channels.
Recall that salience is the degree to which something attracts our attention in a particular context and that we tend to find salient things that are visually or audibly stimulating and things that meet our needs or interests.
Environmental noise such as other people talking, the sounds of traffic, and music interfere with the physiological aspects of hearing.
When we understand something, we are able to attach meaning by connecting information to previous experiences. This initial memory storage unit doesna€™t provide much use for our study of communication, as these large but quickly expiring chunks of sensory data are primarily used in reactionary and instinctual ways. Long-term memoryA mental storage capability to which stimuli in short-term memory can be transferred if they are connected to existing schema. Many quizzes and tests in school are based on recall and are often used to assess how well students comprehended information presented in class, which is seen as an indication of how well they listened. This can quickly become a barrier to effective listening if we begin to prejudge a speaker based on his or her identity or characteristics rather than on the content of his or her message. Back-channel cues are generally a form of positive feedback that indicates others are actively listening. For example, you might say the following to start off a paraphrased response: a€?What I heard you say wasa€¦a€? or a€?It seems like youa€™re sayinga€¦a€? You can also ask clarifying questions to get more information. In general, students with high scores for listening ability have greater academic achievement.
Training and improvements in listening will continue to pay off, as employers desire employees with good communication skills, and employees who have good listening skills are more likely to get promoted. Emotional support in the form of empathetic listening and validation during times of conflict can help relational partners manage common stressors of relationships that may otherwise lead a partnership to deteriorate.Robert M.
For example, we may focus our listening on a dark part of the yard while walking the dog at night to determine if the noise we just heard presents us with any danger. We also use informational listening when we listen to news reports, voice mail, and briefings at work. As constant consumers of messages, we need to be able to assess the credibility of speakers and their messages and identify various persuasive appeals and faulty logic (known as fallacies), which you can learn more about in Chapter 11 "Informative and Persuasive Speaking".
While the word empathy means to a€?feel intoa€? or a€?feel witha€? another person, sympathy means to a€?feel fora€? someone. These listeners are sought out because they are known as people who will a€?lend an ear.a€? They may or may not be valued for the advice they give, but all people often want is a good listener.
Action-oriented listeners can be thought of as a€?buildersa€?a€”like an engineer, a construction site foreperson, or a skilled project manager.
Content-oriented listeners often enjoy high perceived credibility because of their thorough, balanced, and objective approach to engaging with information. Action-oriented listeners would be happy to get to a conclusion or decision quickly if they perceive that they are acting on well-organized and accurate information. Short-term and long-term memory store stimuli until they are discarded or processed for later recall.
Although content-oriented listeners may not be very effective in situations with time constraints, time-oriented listeners are fixated on time limits and listen in limited segments regardless of the complexity of the information or the emotions involved, which can make them appear cold and distant to some.
At the recalling stage, natural limits to our memory and challenges to concentration can interfere with remembering. In general, listening is easier when listeners can make direct eye contact with and are in close physical proximity to a speaker. If that one channel is a lecture being given by your professor, then you are exerting about half of your cognitive processing abilities on one message. Because of this gap, it is impossible to give one message our a€?undivided attention,a€? but we can occupy other channels in our minds with thoughts related to the central message. Media multitasking may promote inefficiency, because it can lead to distractions and plays a prominent role for many in procrastination.
For example, student laptop use during class has been connected to lower academic performance.Carrie B. Even when listening education is available, people do not embrace it as readily as they do opportunities to enhance their speaking skills.
Prejudices that are based on a persona€™s identity, such as race, age, occupation, or appearance, may lead us to assume that we know what he or she will say, essentially closing down the listening process.
These bad listening practices include interrupting, distorted listening, eavesdropping, aggressive listening, narcissistic listening, and pseudo-listening. The speaker may form a negative impression of you that cana€™t just be erased by you noting that you didna€™t a€?mean to interrupt.a€? Interruptions can also be used as an attempt to dominate a conversation.
Many if not most of the interactions we have throughout the day occur in the presence of other people. In any case, this type of listening is considered bad because it is a violation of peoplea€™s privacy. Such behavior often results from built-up frustration within an interpersonal relationship. When the focus is taken off them, narcissistic listeners may give negative feedback by pouting, providing negative criticism of the speaker or topic, or ignoring the speaker.
But we all shift the focus of a conversation back to us occasionally, either because we dona€™t know another way to respond or because we are making an attempt at empathy. Closed questions then have their place to draw out, check or confirm specific pieces of information, or to get the appraisee to commit on a point more precisely.
In this section we will learn more about each stage of the listening process, the main types of listening, and the main listening styles. Although we dona€™t often think about visual cues as a part of listening, they influence how we interpret messages.
Think about how ita€™s much easier to listen to a lecture on a subject that you find very interesting. Psychological noise like stress and anger interfere primarily with the cognitive processes of listening. Through the process of comparing new information with old information, we may also update or revise particular schemata if we find the new information relevant and credible.
All these aspects of evaluating require critical thinking skills, which we arena€™t born with but must develop over time through our own personal and intellectual development. We will learn more about how to avoid slipping into a person-centered rather than message-centered evaluative stance later in the chapter. People also send cues intentionally and unintentionally that indicate they arena€™t listening. It is often a good idea to pair a paraphrase with a question to keep a conversation flowing.
Milardo and Heather Helms-Erikson, a€?Network Overlap and Third-Party Influence in Close Relationships,a€? in Close Relationships: A Sourcebook, eds. Villaume, a€?Aspects of Receiving Information: The Relationships between Listening Preferences, Communication Apprehension, Receiver Apprehension, and Communicator Style,a€? International Journal of Listening 17, no. Since retention and recall are important components of informational listening, good concentration and memory skills are key. Critical listening is important during persuasive exchanges, but I recommend always employing some degree of critical listening, because you may find yourself in a persuasive interaction that you thought was informative.
Sympathy is generally more self-oriented and distant than empathy.Tom Bruneau, a€?Empathy and Listening,a€? in Perspectives on Listening, eds. The first TRC in the United States occurred in Greensboro, North Carolina, as a means of processing the events and aftermath of November 3, 1979, when members of the Ku Klux Klan shot and killed five members of the Communist Workera€™s Party during a daytime confrontation witnessed by news crews and many bystanders. This type of listening may be especially valuable in interpersonal communication involving emotional exchanges, as a person-oriented listener can create a space where people can make themselves vulnerable without fear of being cut off or judged. This style of listening can be very effective when a task needs to be completed under time, budgetary, or other logistical constraints. Content-oriented listeners are likely skilled informational and critical listeners and may find success in academic careers in the humanities, social sciences, or sciences.
They would, however, not mind taking longer to reach a conclusion when dealing with a complex topic, and they would delay making a decision if the information presented to them didna€™t meet their standards of organization. We then evaluate the credibility, completeness, and worth of a message before responding with verbal and nonverbal signals. At the evaluating stage, personal biases and prejudices can lead us to block people out or assume we know what they are going to say.
You may recall from Chapter 4 "Nonverbal Communication" that when group members are allowed to choose a leader, they often choose the person who is sitting at the center or head of the table.Peter A.
Ailments such as a cold, a broken leg, a headache, or a poison ivy outbreak can range from annoying to unbearably painful and impact our listening relative to their intensity. For example, using some of your extra cognitive processing abilities to repeat, rephrase, or reorganize messages coming from one source allows you to use that extra capacity in a way that reinforces the primary message.
For example, when our self-consciousness is raised, we may be too busy thinking about how we look, how wea€™re sitting, or what others think of us to be attentive to an incoming message. Rehearsal becomes problematic when response preparation begins as someone is receiving a message and hasna€™t had time to engage in interpretation or recall. If you answered a€?yesa€? to most of them, then you are in line with the general practices of the a€?net generationa€? of digital natives for whom multitasking, especially with various forms of media, is a way of life. The numerous options for media engagement that we have can also lead to a feeling of chaos as our attention is pulled in multiple directions, creating a general sense of disorder. The links to videos and online articles that Ia€™ve included in this textbook allow readers like you to quickly access additional information about a particular subject to prepare for a presentation or complete a paper assignment. Fried, a€?In-Class Laptop Use and Its Effects on Student Learning,a€? Computers and Education 50 (2008): 906a€“14.

After teaching communication courses for several years, I have consistently found that students and teachers approach the listening part of the course less enthusiastically than some of the other parts. Keeping an open mind and engaging in perception checking can help us identify prejudiced listening and hopefully shift into more competent listening practices.
Back-channel cues like a€?uh-huh,a€? as we learned earlier, also overlap with a speakera€™s message. A person engaging in this type of interruption may lead the other communicator to try to assert dominance, too, resulting in a competition to see who can hold the floor the longest or the most often. If a professor is explaining to a student why he earned a a€?Da€? on his final paper, the student could reattribute the cause from a€?I didna€™t follow the paper guidelinesa€? to a€?this professor is an unfair grader.a€? Sometimes we actually change the words we hear to make them better fit what we are thinking. However, given that our perceptual fields are usually focused on the interaction, we are often unaware of the other people around us or dona€™t think about the fact that they could be listening in on our conversation.
Consequences for eavesdropping may include an angry reaction if caught, damage to interpersonal relationships, or being perceived as dishonest and sneaky.
Unfortunately, the more two people know each other, the better they will be at aggressive listening. A common sign of narcissistic listening is the combination of a a€?pivot,a€? when listeners shift the focus of attention back to them, and a€?one-upping,a€? when listeners try to top what previous speakers have said during the interaction. Outwardly visible signals of attentiveness are an important part of the listening process, but when they are just an a€?act,a€? the pseudo-listener is engaging in bad listening behaviors. This then brings us to the bottom of the funnel where we clarify, using a short summary, what we have got out of the discussion, aiming to check our understanding of the main points. The solution to this takes the form of what is termed a€?active listeninga€™ and we can use the acronym LISTEN to gain some useful guidance on this. For example, seeing a persona€™s face when we hear their voice allows us to take in nonverbal cues from facial expressions and eye contact.
If we have difficulty interpreting information, meaning we dona€™t have previous experience or information in our existing schemata to make sense of it, then it is difficult to transfer the information into our long-term memory for later recall.
Experiments have found that people can memorize and later recall a set of faces and names with near 100 percent recall when sitting in a quiet lab and asked to do so. If another person is looking away, fidgeting, texting, or turned away, we will likely interpret those responses negatively. For example, you might pose the following paraphrase and question pair: a€?It seems like you believe you were treated unfairly. In the absence of a hearing impairment, we have an innate and physiological ability to engage in discriminative listening. These also happen to be skills that many college students struggle with, at least in the first years of college, but will be expected to have mastered once they get into professional contexts.
As is noted in Chapter 4 "Nonverbal Communication", people often disguise inferences as facts.
The goal of such commissions is to allow people to tell their stories, share their perspectives in an open environment, and be listened to. People-oriented listeners are likely skilled empathetic listeners and may find success in supportive fields like counseling, social work, or nursing.
One research study found that people prefer an action-oriented style of listening in instructional contexts.Margarete Imhof, a€?Who Are We as We Listen? Unlike time-oriented listeners, action-oriented listeners are not as likely to cut people off (especially if people are presenting relevant information) and are not as likely to take short cuts. At the responding stage, a lack of paraphrasing and questioning skills can lead to misunderstanding. Another type of noise, psychological noise, bridges physical and cognitive barriers to effective listening. The fact that we have the capability to process more than one thing at a time offers some advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, we are often challenged when presented with messages that we do not find personally relevant. In this sense, we are listening with the goal of responding instead of with the goal of understanding, which can lead us to miss important information that could influence our response. Multitasking is a concept that has been around for a while and emerged along with the increasing expectation that we will fill multiple role demands throughout the day. And many of us feel a sense of enslavement when we engage in media multitasking, as we feel like we cana€™t live without certain personal media outlets. This is because media multitasking has the potential to interfere with listening at multiple stages of the process.
Listening is often viewed as an annoyance or a chore, or just ignored or minimized as part of the communication process. Chapter 9 "Preparing a Speech" also discusses many strategies for creating messages tailored for oral delivery, including things like preview and review statements, transitions, and parallel wording. More than likely, though, the speaker will form a negative impression of the interrupter and may withdraw from the conversation.
This can easily happen if we join a conversation late, overhear part of a conversation, or are being a lazy listener and miss important setup and context. We usually only become aware of the fact that other people could be listening in when wea€™re discussing something private. Additionally, eavesdropping may lead people to find out information that is personally upsetting or hurtful, especially if the point of the eavesdropping is to find out what people are saying behind their back. She or he is not actually going through the stages of the listening process and will likely not be able to recall the speakera€™s message or offer a competent and relevant response.
The fact that these visual cues are missing in e-mail, text, and phone interactions presents some difficulties for reading contextual clues into meaning received through only auditory channels.
In situations where understanding the information we receive isna€™t important or isna€™t a goal, this stage may be fairly short or even skipped. Working memory is a temporarily accessed memory storage space that is activated during times of high cognitive demand.
But throw in external noise, more visual stimuli, and multiple contextual influences, and we cana€™t remember the name of the person we were just introduced to one minute earlier.
The main types of listening we will discuss are discriminative, informational, critical, and empathetic.Kittie W.
Although this is the most basic form of listening, it provides the foundation on which more intentional listening skills are built. In many professional contexts, informational listening is important, especially when receiving instructions.
Critical-listening skills are useful when listening to a persuasive speech in this class and when processing any of the persuasive media messages we receive daily. Other research finds that people often still revert back to a single preferred style in times of emotional or cognitive stress, even if they know a different style of listening would be better.Debra L. Interestingly, such fields are typically feminized, in that people often associate the characteristics of people-oriented listeners with roles filled by women. Individual Listening Profiles in Varying Contexts,a€? International Journal of Listening 18, no.
In the following section, we will explore how environmental and physical factors, cognitive and personal factors, and bad listening practices present barriers to effective listening. Even though the person may not have demonstrated any leadership abilities, people subconsciously gravitate toward speakers that are nonverbally accessible. Psychological noiseNoise stemming from our psychological states, including moods and level of arousal, that can impede listening., or noise stemming from our psychological states including moods and level of arousal, can facilitate or impede listening. But unless we can better understand how our cognitive capacities and personal preferences affect our listening, we are likely to experience more barriers than benefits.
In general, we employ selective attentionOur tendency to pay attention to the messages that benefit us in some way and filter others out., which refers to our tendency to pay attention to the messages that benefit us in some way and filter others out. Multitasking can be pretty straightforward and beneficiala€”for example, if we listen to motivating music while working out. Aside from just reading material in a textbook, students can now access information through an authora€™s blog or Twitter account. The study showed that laptop use interfered with receiving, as students using them reported that they paid less attention to the class lectures. In addition, our individualistic society values speaking more than listening, as ita€™s the speakers who are sometimes literally in the spotlight. All these interruptions are not typically thought of as evidence of bad listening unless they become distracting for the speaker or are unnecessary. As wea€™ll learn later, matching stories isna€™t considered empathetic listening, but occasionally doing it doesna€™t make you a narcissistic listener. Although it is a bad listening practice, we all understandably engage in pseudo-listening from time to time.
After all, we can move something to our long-term memory by repetition and then later recall it without ever having understood it. When using working memory, we can temporarily store information and process and use it at the same time.
Even in interpersonal encounters, we rely on recall to test whether or not someone was listening. Paraphrasing is also a good tool to use in computer-mediated communication, especially since miscommunication can occur due to a lack of nonverbal and other contextual cues. The following list reviews some of the main functions of listening that are relevant in multiple contexts. I caution my students that they will be expected to process verbal instructions more frequently in their profession than they are in college.
You can see judges employ critical listening, with varying degrees of competence, on talent competition shows like Rupaula€™s Drag Race, Americaa€™s Got Talent, and The Voice. Worthington, a€?Exploring the Relationship between Listening Style Preference and Personality,a€? International Journal of Listening 17, no.
We will learn more about how gender and listening intersect in Section 5 "Listening and Gender". The ability to effectively see and hear a person increases peoplea€™s confidence in their abilities to receive and process information. Any mood or state of arousal, positive or negative, that is too far above or below our regular baseline creates a barrier to message reception and processing.
But multitasking can be very inefficient, especially when one or more of our concurrent tasks are complex or unfamiliar to us.Fleura Bardhi, Andres J. This is because students used the laptops for purposes other than taking notes or exploring class content.
Although listening competence is a crucial part of social interaction and many of us value others we perceive to be a€?good listeners,a€? listening just doesna€™t get the same kind of praise, attention, instruction, or credibility as speaking.
Information overload is a common barrier to effective listening that good speakers can help mitigate by building redundancy into their speeches and providing concrete examples of new information to help audience members interpret and understand the key ideas. Last, the addition of material to a message is a type of distorted listening that actually goes against our normal pattern of listening, which involves reducing the amount of information and losing some meaning as we take it in.
If a friend needs someone to talk but youa€™re really tired or experiencing some other barrier to effective listening, it may be worth engaging in pseudo-listening as a relational maintenance strategy, especially if the friend just needs a sounding board and isna€™t expecting advice or guidance. I remember earning perfect scores on exams in my anatomy class in college because I was able to memorize and recall, for example, all the organs in the digestive system.
This is different from our typical memory function in that information usually has to make it to long-term memory before we can call it back up to apply to a current situation.
Imagine that Azam is talking to his friend Belle, who is sitting across from him in a restaurant booth.
Think of how musicians, singers, and mechanics exercise specialized discriminative listening to isolate specific aural stimuli and how actors, detectives, and sculptors discriminate visual cues that allow them to analyze, make meaning from, or recreate nuanced behavior.Andrew D.
Most college professors provide detailed instructions and handouts with assignments so students can review them as needed, but many supervisors and managers will expect you to take the initiative to remember or record vital information. While the exchanges between judge and contestant on these shows is expected to be subjective and critical, critical listening is also important when listening to speakers that have stated or implied objectivity, such as parents, teachers, political leaders, doctors, and religious leaders. Because of our own centrality in our perceptual world, empathetic listening can be difficult. In other situations, such as interpersonal communication, action-oriented listeners may not actually be very interested in listening, instead taking a a€?What do you want me to do?a€? approach. The generally positive emotional state of being in love can be just as much of a barrier as feeling hatred. Of the students using laptops, 81 percent checked e-mail during lectures, 68 percent used instant messaging, and 43 percent surfed the web.
The metaphor of a€?weaving a tall talea€? is related to the practice of distorting through addition, as inaccurate or fabricated information is added to what was actually heard. We may also pseudo-listen to a romantic partner or grandfathera€™s story for the fifteenth time to prevent hurting their feelings. People with good working memories are able to keep recent information in mind and process it and apply it to other incoming information.
Wolvin and Carolyn Gwynn Coakley, a€?A Listening Taxonomy,a€? in Perspectives on Listening, eds.
Additionally, many bosses are not as open to questions or requests to repeat themselves as professors are.
We will learn more about how to improve your critical thinking skills later in this chapter. Ita€™s often much easier for us to tell our own story or to give advice than it is to really listen to and empathize with someone else. Following a brief overview of each listening style, we will explore some of their applications, strengths, and weaknesses. A friend and colleague of mine who exhibits some qualities of an action-oriented listener once told me about an encounter she had with a close friend who had a stillborn baby. As we learned in Chapter 1 "Introduction to Communication Studies", environmental noises such as a whirring air conditioner, barking dogs, or a ringing fire alarm can obviously interfere with listening despite direct lines of sight and well-placed furniture. Students using laptops also had difficulty with the interpretation stage of listening, as they found less clarity in the parts of the lecture they heard and did not understand the course material as much as students who didna€™t use a laptop. So unless you plan on taking more communication courses in the future (and I hope you do), this chapter may be the only instruction you receive on the basics of the listening process, some barriers to effective listening, and how we can increase our listening competence. We should avoid pseudo-listening when possible and should definitely avoid making it a listening habit.
But neither then nor now could I tell you the significance or function of most of those organs, meaning I didna€™t really get to a level of understanding but simply stored the information for later recall.
We should keep in mind that sometimes others just need to be heard and our feedback isna€™t actually desired.
Stress about an upcoming events ranging from losing a job, to having surgery, to wondering about what to eat for lunch can overshadow incoming messages.
The difficulties with receiving and interpreting obviously create issues with recall that can lead to lower academic performance in the class. An excellent example of the result of distorted listening is provided by the character Anthony Crispino on Saturday Night Live, who passes along distorted news on the a€?Weekend Updatea€? segment. Although we may get away with it in some situations, each time we risk being a€?found out,a€? which could have negative relational consequences. A person in control of a command center like the White House Situation Room should have a good working memory in order to take in, organize, evaluate, and then immediately use new information instead of having to wait for that information to make it to long-term memory and then be retrieved and used. Wolvin and Carolyn Gwynn Coakley (Norwood, NJ: Alex Publishing Corporation, 1993), 18a€“19.
As you can see from this example, the action-oriented listening style often contrasts with the people-oriented listening style. While we will explore cognitive barriers to effective listening more in the next section, psychological noise is relevant here given that the body and mind are not completely separate.
In past episodes, he has noted that Lebron James turned down the Cleveland Show to be on Miami Vice (instead of left the Cleveland Cavaliers to play basketball for the Miami Heat) and that President Obama planned on repealing the a€?Bush haircutsa€? (instead of the Bush tax cuts). These students reported that they were distracted, as their attention was drawn to the laptop screens of other students. Fatigue, for example, is usually a combination of psychological and physiological stresses that manifests as stress (psychological noise) and weakness, sleepiness, and tiredness (physiological noise).
Additionally, mental anxiety (psychological noise) can also manifest itself in our bodies through trembling, sweating, blushing, or even breaking out in rashes (physiological noise).

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