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Improve Your Listening Skills, Improve Your Grades

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One way to raise your GPA is to master the skill of listening. It is a common misconception that listening and hearing are the same thing. Hearing refers to the ability to detect sound. Listening requires concentration.

Listening is based on three basic skills: attitude, attention, and adjustment.

  • Maintain a constructive attitude.

Staying positive is essential for open-mindedness. Don’t assume a lecture is going to be dull and boring. If the lecturer makes statements or presents ideas that you don’t agree with, don’t assume that he/she is wrong.

  • Strive to pay attention

You must focus your attention on the lecture. What you are hearing will enter your short term memory. From there, it will be processed into ideas. Attentive listening insures that the ideas are processed.

  • Adjust where needed

Be flexible enough to follow a lecture regardless of the direction it may take. If you find yourself completely lost, ask a clarifying question.

Students spend 20 percent of all school related hours just listening. Most people struggle to provide information in a clear concise manner and may need a little help delivering it. Keep asking for a better explanation or more information. Don’t be afraid to use non-verbal questioning as someone is speaking – look “puzzled” or hesitant while they are speaking and more often than not they will respond with clarification. If they don’t pick up on your non-verbal cues, don’t hesitate to verbally ask for more information. Luckily, active listening skills can be learned. You can use the following tactics to make sure you understand what is being said:

  • Clarification – ask questions to clarify a concept if you are unsure of what is meant
  • Paraphrase – rephrase content
  • Reflection – rephrase feelings
  • Summarization – listen for main points or themes
  • Physical Cues – use eye contact and head nods to convey that you are listening

Here are some additional steps to take to help improve your listening skills:

  • Be prepared to listen.

If you don’t like a class, listening to the lecture can be a chore. Decide before class that the time spent in class will be time well spent. Your attitude can affect your listening. Don’t dismiss anyone. Even the world’s most successful people can learn something from everyone.

  • Watch the Speaker.

Maintain eye contact. Gestures, body language, and tone of voice usually emphasize a speaker’s remarks. Some experts believe that body language and tone of voice account for 95% of the listening communication process. Because communication is both physical and oral, you must watch as well as listen.

  • Pay attention to questions.

When the instructor asks a question, pay attention. The question is being asked so you understand and remember the answer. Be sure to notice the questions asked by others in class. The instructor may provide a more detailed explanation or give examples to clarify the concept.

  • Stop talking.

If you are dominating the conversation, you do not have an opportunity to listen. It doesn’t take long for another person to disengage from a conversation if they aren’t given a chance to talk.

  • Choose your seat carefully.

Choose a seat where you will have an unobstructed view of the speaker. Sit up straight. Move away from disruptions – doors, windows, and people.

  • Do not criticize.

Do not critique the speaker’s style, dress, or mannerisms. This is not a beauty contest. Concentrate on the content of the lecture.

  • Do not doodle.

It’s a good idea to take notes, but any other writing may be a distraction. Distractions prevent you from listening.

  • Provide Feedback.

When a speaker is finished speaking, summarize the important points as you understand them. You will be able to identify any disconnects. Often two people can have a conversation and come away from it with entirely different interpretations. Feedback will help prevent this.

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