Nathan W. Bingham
Connecting in a Hyper-Connected World

Are You A Poor Listener Or An Effective Listener?

Effective Listening

If you have your hearing you can listen. What you may not be able to do is listen effectively. Just as it is easy to pick up poor reading habits, it’s even easier to pick up poor listening habits.

“Who cares?” you ask. Well, you should. Not only is listening important for much of your education (if it’s delivered via a lecture), God has ordained that your ears be used for one of His means of grace; the Word preached.

I’ve suggested 3 ways to get the most out of a sermon in the past, and one of the ways was to concentrate during the sermon. That’s essentially to listen effectively. Well, when I read these tips on effective listening posted by Howard Culbertson, I had to blog them. Although they’re focused on listening to lectures, much of it is helpful and transferable to a church setting. In fact, when my wife read the 10 tips below she thought much of it was relevant to listening in general, even one-on-one conversation.

1. Choose to find the subject useful.

Poor listeners dismiss most lectures as dull and irrelevant. They turn off quickly.
Effective listeners separate the wheat from the chaff. They choose to listen to discover new knowledge.

2. Concentrate on the words and message, not on the professor’s looks, clothes or delivery.

Poor listeners notice faults in a lecturer’s appearance or delivery.
Effective listeners strive to pick every professor’s brain for self-gain.

3. When you hear something you’re not sure you agree with, react slowly and thoughtfully.

Poor listeners stop listening to the speaker and start listening to themselves. They either passively reject what is being said or they launch into impassioned rebuttals (to themselves).
Effective listeners don’t jump to conclusions and then disengage. They keep conclusions tentative while getting more information.

4. Identify the “big ideas,” those fundamental concepts to which everything else in the lecture is related.

Poor listeners say, “I listen only for facts.” They may retain a few of those facts, but the information is usually garbled.
Effective listeners look for foundational concepts. They grab key ideas and use them as anchor points for the entire lecture.

5. Adjust your note taking system to the lecturer’s pattern.

Some poor listeners attempt to outline everything, believing an outline and notes are the same thing. They get frustrated when they cannot see “points A, B and C.”
Effective listeners adjust their note-taking to the organizational pattern used by the lecturer.

6. Stay attentive.

Poor listeners let their minds to wander.
Effective listeners remain focused and actively try to absorb material.

7. Aggressively tackle difficult material.

When poor listeners encounter a tough topic, they stop absorbing and let things start bouncing off them.
Effective listeners condition themselves to be interested in challenging matters. They find a challenge in grasping the meaning of what is being said — no matter how difficult the subject.

8. Don’t get derailed by emotionally charged “buzz” words that trigger negative responses.

Poor listeners tune people out on the basis of a few words.
Effective listeners don’t let the emotional baggage of a word hinder them from getting at the substance of a lecture.

9. Get to know the professor personally.

Poor listeners see professors as talking heads.
Effective listeners like to pick up interesting facts about professors (personal history, family life, hobbies, etc.).

10. Understand and use the differential between the speed of speaking and the speed of thinking. We think at about 400 words per minute. That’s four times faster than most speakers can talk.

Poor listeners drift back and forth between a lecture and thoughts about other things.
Effective listeners use the thinking/speaking differential in three ways:

Think over them. Chew over them. And I pray the Lord will bless you as you more effectively listen to the Word preached this coming Sunday.

Thanks Dr. Murray for linking to Howard Culbertson’s tips.