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"Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to,
it creates us, makes us unfold and expand."
--Karl Menninger (American psychiatrist, 1893--1990)

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My name is TEMAN JOHNSON, and I am pleased you came to visit my
where I devote the home page to a discussion of effective listening skills, but where you will also find Jokes, Fun Links, Graphics Links, and information about Fly Fishing, Gardening, California History, Yosemite National Park, Merced, California, My Faith, Quotes and Stories, Toasts, and my family and me on the other pages. The graphic of the house above isn't really my house, but it is a house I have in my mind that is suitable for all the topics on this web site, with each room furnished in a suitable way for each topic.

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This web site was last edited on 05/20/09.



To start my brief discussion of listening, let's first draw a distinction between "hearing" and "listening." Hearing is simply taking in sound, and is a natural, automatic process. Listening, however, is a learned process, and includes paying attention, processing the sensory data coming in, and remembering it.

Since listening has to be learned, and since we learn from those around us, if we have good listening models, we will probably turn out to be effective listeners. If we have poor models we may or may not be effective listeners.

SolutionHow many of you parents and teachers actually take time to teach your children and students effective listening habits? I don't mean just saying, "Now listen to me." I mean teaching them ways to pay attention, process the data, and remember it. The book by Chaney and Burk is excellent in giving you exercises you can use with your children and students to help them become better listeners. See below under "Teaching Children to Listen."



Active Listening is a useful way of listening whenever you are getting directions, having an argument, or listening to someone's problem. Your focus as the listener is on the speaker, and you provide an active mirror to reflect an understanding of what the other person is meaning and feeling.

There are THREE TECHNIQUES in Active Listening.

First, paraphrase, or summarize in your own words, what the person has just said. Don't be a parrot; just summarize briefly.

FamilySecond, express an acceptance of the other's feelings, if they seem important.

Third, ask non-threatening questions in order to find out more information and encourage the other to fully express their feelings and ideas.

PhoneI had a married student in my Merced College Interpersonal Communication Class who talked about the difficulty he had getting his teen-aged daughters to open up to him. I suggested he try Active Listening with them, and he came back to class and said, "Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that Active Listening really opened up avenues of communication with my daughters. The bad news is that now I can't shut them up!"

This technique must be practiced regularly to become effective. It isn't natural, so the first time or two may seem stiff and awkward, but with consistent practice, it will become more natural, and the results will be well worth the effort.


Making a Request

When you want someone to change their behavior because something they are doing is upsetting you, use this following formula:

When you _________, I think ___________, and I feel _______________. My request is that you _______________.

When you use this formula for communication, you are owning your feelings. You are not making the other person responsible for your feelings. You are just telling them what you do inside when they do what they do. Then you are making a request. They have the right to honor it or not, but at least they now know what you want and why you want it.

When stated this way, your request will not create defensiveness in the listener. It is easier to listen to because there is no blame attached to the communication. Therefore, there is nothing to defend against. That way the listener can put all of their attention on whether or not they want to meet your request.

Source: The Aladdin Factor, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen



Speech writer Joan Dietz gives good advice on how to listen to children: "Listen to children's comments with respect," she says. Don't be patronizing or bossy; it will just turn kids off."

ChildrenChildrenCarolyn Coakley-Hickerson gives specific ways to help your children become better listeners. She says, "To help your child be a better listener, try these steps: Stop what you're doing, look at your child and listen fully when she speaks. Ask questions. This not only shows you're listening, but also that you are interested in what your child has to say. Play games that encourage listening, such as Simon Says or, for older children, Trivial Pursuit."
(Quoted by author Dana Nourie in the article "Family Parenting," in the April, 1998 issue of "Family Life.")

BookcoverChild and Mother

FOR TEACHERS AND PARENTS, there is an excellent book entitled "Teaching Oral Communication in Grades K-8" by Ann Chaney and Tamara Burk, published by Allyn and Bacon, and available at Barnes and Noble or Amazon Internet Book Stores. Go to the web site, click on "books" or "bookstore" and type in the title of the book. Amazon has used copies.



Sam Walton, who began the wildly successful Wal-Mart Stores gives one key to the success of businesses: "The key to success," he says, "is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say. It's terribly important for everyone to get involved. Our best ideas come from clerks and stock boys."(Sounds like putting your ear to the ground to hear what is coming).


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More Listening LinksClick on MORE LISTENING LINKS if you would like to read about the following:

"Psychotherapist's Emphasis on Listening"
"Registered Nurse Pat Hall's Thoughts on Listening"
"Patricia Walker--A Listening Technique for Students"
"Listening to Plants"
"Listening to Ourself"
"Listening to our Higher Self"
"Listening: A Poem"
"4 Types of Listening"
"Active Listening in Hostage/Crisis Negotiations"
"College and University Listening Programs"
"Links to Other Listening Sites."

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