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Using the Listening Self-Evaluation Worksheet on page 54, undertake a candid evaluation of your major strengths and weaknesses as a listener. Explain what steps you need to take to become a better listener.

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How to Become a Better Listener


The first step toward becoming a better listener is to accord listening the seriousness it deserves. Good listeners are not born that way. They have worked at learning how to listen effectively. Good listening does not go hand in hand with intelligence, education, or social standing. Like any other skill, it comes from practice and self-discipline. Check your current skills as a listener by completing the Listening Self-Evaluation Worksheet on page 54.10 Once you have identified your shortcomings as a listener, make a serious effort to overcome them.


So many aspects of modern life encourage us to listen passively. We listen to our iPods while studying. Parents listen to their children while fixing dinner. Television reporters listen to a politician’s speech while walking around the auditorium looking for their next interview.

active listening

Giving undivided attention to a speaker in a genuine effort to understand the speaker’s point of view.

This type of passive listening is a habit—but so is active listening. Active listeners give their undivided attention to the speaker in a genuine effort to understand his or her point of view. In conversation, they do not interrupt the speaker or finish his or her sentences. When listening to a speech, they do not allow themselves to be distracted by internal or external interference, and they do not prejudge the speaker. They take listening seriously and do the best they can to stay focused on the speaker and his or her message.

There are a number of steps you can take to improve your skills of active listening. They include resisting distractions, not allowing yourself to be diverted by a speaker’s appearance or delivery, suspending judgment until you have heard the speaker out, focusing your listening, and developing note-taking skills. We’ll discuss each of these in turn.

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