The first step in any listening experience is the receiving, and it is as simple as it sounds. One just needs to be within earshot and have functioning ears to receive the sound waves. However, to actually listen, it is important for one to take several steps. The first is to force the mind to follow the body. That will entail facing the speaker and thus engage the mind. One also has to focus his or her attention on what is being said (Livingstone 27). Listening calls for the active reception of whatever the speaker is saying. One cannot be passive and assert that they have listened to.
The next steps are understanding and remembering. In understanding, it is critical that one knows that they have to look beyond mere words. To understand, one must receive the message that is being delivered, and the thoughts and emotions behind it. The speaker has several ideas they want to state, and his or her emotions during the delivery are a message in and of themselves. Effective listening also demands that one remembers what the speaker says. It does not serve any purpose if one forgets the message as soon as they receive it. Remembering what someone said requires the active engagement of the brain.
There is also the act of evaluating what was said. First, one has to assess the message itself. The listener must decide whether the message was accurate and if it was efficiently transmitted. That factor assumes that the listener is operating from a position of knowledge. The speaker’s credibility is determined by finding some valuable information about them. In evaluating both, the audience should be aware of several things. First, they must be aware of both the speaker’s and listener’s biases. The one who listens must also be well informed and be honest in their assessment of both the speaker and the message.
A listener cannot avoid responding, and these answers will fall into two primary categories. There is a response during the session. The speaker will be watching the audience and will expect some level of acknowledgment. In this case, it is important to focus on non-verbal personal cues. One should respond verbally only if the situation certainly demands it. However, after the speech, the responses can and should be verbal. The audience can cheer or applaud the speaker. They can also approach him or her and offer their opinions on the speech (Livingstone 43). The main thing to remember is to focus on the positive.
Listening also calls for politeness. The aspect has several facets. The first is that the listener should offer positive cues. Public speaking is a nervous experience for most people, and the audience should encourage the speaker through these cues. The listener should also show empathy. They should try and see things from the speaker’s perspective and thus respect the speaker. It is also important to maintain eye contact so that the speaker knows that the person who listens is paying attention. Finally, it is critical for the audience to try to providing positive feedback at all times.
The listener should also focus on the totality of the meaning if they are to be effective. The fact is that one communicates with what they say as well as what they don’t say. The details that speakers leave out and the tone they use when speaking are critical for one to understand the whole message. For example, one can miss out vital details, and that could tell the audience that they were not prepared. By getting the totality of the message, the listener will evaluate it better.
Criticism is an essential part of any listening experience, and the first thing to keep in mind is to always begin with positive feedback. There are several reasons for this. For one, no speaker will lack telling something positive regarding one’s performance. Additionally, as stated, public speaking is a harrowing experience for most people. Being positive is the right thing to do as a human being and an individual in the same boat. Finally, someone is more likely to take the criticism positively if it begins that way. Since criticism is meant to lead to development, everything should be done to make it useful.
Once one has begun on a positive note, they should then move on to constructive criticism. One should never point out a problem to which they don’t have the answer. The aim of any critique is to help to grow as a person. Everyone who practices public speaking knows that they have to grow and that can only happen through criticism. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the critic to not only point out areas that need improvement but to also show the speaker how they can make the improvements.
Livingston, Ruth. Advanced Public Speaking: Dynamics and Techniques. Bloomington, IN: Xlibris Corp, 2010. Print.