Minggu, 26 Mei 2013

Reading Comprehension Tips and Speed Reading Strategies

Reading Comprehension Tips and Speed Reading Strategies

Some Quick Tips To Improve Your Reading Comprehension

  • Read early in the day: This will allow you to concentrate and retain more information than studying later at night when you may be tired. When tired, your concentration and comprehension will decrease. 
  • Read for short bursts: Try to read for 35 to 40 minutes at a time and then take a short break. If you have this as your reading goal it can serve as a motivator in trying to really focus on the material at hand. Try to make these “bursts” quality reading time
  •  Find a quiet location: Try to avoid your residence hall room on campus as well as the lounge. There are too many distractions there that are not conducive for quality reading.
  • Monitor your comprehension: Ask yourself every once in a while, “What have I learned?” If you are having trouble answering this, then re-read the material, ask a classmate, or ask the professor for some clarification.
  • Try skimming the chapter first: Take a look at the title page, preface, subtitles, the introduction and the chapter summary before reading the entire chapter.
Remember: College Textbooks are designed to help you by providing
ItalicizedBold Words
List of Main Points
Repetition of information/facts

What Type Of Reader Are You?

Are you a passive reader who likes to use a highlighter?

Result: Reading passively delays learning because you are continually re-reading the material highlighted and you may have the tendency to become lazy and highlight most of your reading. Ask yourself this question, “did I retain most of the material I highlighted?”

Are You Reading The Material For Hours At A Time Just To Get It Done?

Result: You become a lazy reader (you develop a lower retention of the material read as well) and you do not really focus your attention on the critical points; i.e., you “zone out.” 

Improve your reading by being a more "active reader":

Method One: SQ3R Method (Cornell Method)

Survey: Look over the chapter and get an idea of what it will cover. This will cognitively ease your way into the reading assignment.
Question: Think about, “what is this chapter about?” and “what examples support the author’s point in the chapter?”
Read: Go over the material carefully and if you have any questions with vocabulary or concepts write them down and review them after you finish that particular section. Continue assessing your reading to see if you are understanding the material.
Review: This is an extremely important point. Try to do this a couple of times each week. By reviewing, you will begin to see the larger picture of the main concepts introduced. Think of this as an athlete or a musician who continues to practice and becomes better and better during his/her performances. The more you review the material (i.e., “practice”) the better your understanding will be of that topic because you are “exercising” your brain.
Recite: Practice by saying aloud the material you are reviewing. This helps immensely because you are utilizing both hemispheres of your brain.

Method Two: Design Your Own Question Notes

  1. Split the page so you have questions in one column and answers in the other column.
  2. From the chapter headings, make study questions that you feel could be on the test (also look for and develop “cause/effect” questions from them).
  3. Look for words in bold print. These are usually definitions; make sure you can give an example for the term. This will help because professors will sometimes give you an example of the term and not ask you specifically for the definition. This will aid you in learning the material instead of just memorizing it. Remember: You are playing the role of the instructor.
Practice: Please go over the reading sample on the next page and write out what you think are the important points of the material. A sample of what your questions/notes should look like appears right after the sample.
Remember: Writing questions and notes may be time consuming at first, but keep in mind that you are not rewriting the chapter. Rather, you are picking out the important points and, as a result, you now have your review sheets prepared for the exam!
THE END RESULT … A more active learner and better retention of the material since you are writing the information out!

Reading Sample

Research on the learning of factual material has been done in two general ways. In many studies psychologists have examined verbal learning, or how students learn verbal material in laboratory settings. For example, students might be asked to learn lists of words or nonsense syllables. Other studies have investigated learning facts from books, lectures, class presentations, movies, and other more typical forms of classroom instruction. These studies may take place in psychological laboratories or they may be done in classrooms.

Verbal Learning

Three types of verbal learning tasks typically seen in the classroom have been identified and studied extensively: the paired-associate task, the serial learning task, and the free recall learning task.
  1. Paired-Associate Learning: This type of task involves learning to respond with one member of a pair when given the other member of the pair. Usually there is a list of pairs to be memorized. In typical experiments the pairs are arbitrary. Educational examples of paired-associate tasks include learning state capitals, names and dates of Civil War battles, addition and multiplication tables, atomic weights of elements, and word spellings.
  2. Serial Learning: This involves learning a list of terms in a particular order. Memorization of the notes on the musical staff, the Pledge of Allegiance, the elements in atomic weight order, and poetry and songs are serial learning tasks. Serial learning tasks occur less often in classroom instruction than paired-associate tasks.
  3. Free-Recall Learning: These types of tasks also involve memorizing a list, but not in a special order. Recalling the names of the fifty states, types of reinforcement, and the organ systems in the body are examples of free-recall tasks.
This text was taken from: Slavin, R. (1988). Educational Psychology: Theory Into Practice (Second Edition). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Question Notes Sample:

  1. What is verbal learning?
  1.  How students learn lists of words under
    a controlled condition.
  1. What are three types of verbal learning?

  1. Paired-Associate
  2. Serial Learning
  3. Free Recall
  1. What is Paired Associate Learning?
    Give examples:
  1. Respond with one member of a pair when given the other member of the pair.

    : Knowing the states/capitals; multiplication tables
  1. What is Serial Learning?
    Give examples:
  1. Learning a list of names in a particular order.

    : Notes on a musical staff: Every, Good, Boy, Deserves, Fudge
  1. What is Free-Recall Learning?Give examples:
  1. Memorizing a list but not in any order

    Examples: Organ system in the body; the fifty states

For additional information you may want to visit these websites:

Speed Reading

Learning to Read More Efficiently

Think about how much reading you do every day.
Perhaps you read the newspaper to catch up with what's going on in the world. You browse countless emails from colleagues. And you then read the books, reports, proposals, periodicals, and letters that make up an average day.
When you look at it, reading could be the work-related skill that you use most often!
It's also a skill that most of us take for granted by the time we reach the age of 12. After all, it seems that if we can read and comprehend textbooks, then, surely, we must be good readers?
Maybe not. And, given the time that reading consumes in our daily lives, it may be a skill that we can, and should, improve.
But what does becoming a better reader involve?
It means getting faster and more efficient at reading, while still understanding what you're reading. In this article, we'll look at how you can do this, and how you can unlearn poor reading habits.

How We Read

Although you spend a good part of your day reading, have you ever thought about how you read?
How do your eyes make sense of the shapes of the letters, and then put those letters together to form a sentence that you can understand?
When you actually think about it, reading is quite a complex skill. Previously, scientists believed that when you read, both of your eyes focused on a particular letter in a word. Recent research shows this isn't the case.
Scientists now believe that each of your eyes lock onto a different letter at the same time, usually two characters apart. Your brain then fuses these images together to form a word. This happens almost instantaneously, as we zip through pages and pages of text!

Advantages of Speed Reading

Many people read at an average rate of 250 words per minute. This means that an average page in a book or document would take you 1-2 minutes to read.
However, imagine if you could double your rate to 500 words per minute. You could zip through all of this content in half the time. You could then spend the time saved on other tasks, or take a few extra minutes to relax and de-stress.
Another important advantage of speed reading is that you can better comprehend the overall structure of an argument. This leads to a "bigger picture" understanding, which can greatly benefit your work and career.
Speed reading is a useful and valuable skill. However, there might be times when using this technique isn't appropriate. For instance, it's often best to read important or challenging documents slowly, so that you can fully understand each detail.

Breaking Poor Reading Habits

If you're like most people, then you probably have one or more reading habits that slow you down. Becoming a better reader means overcoming these bad habits, so that you can clear the way for new, effective ways of reading.
Below, we cover some of the most common bad reading habits, and discuss what you can do to overcome them.


Sub-vocalization is the habit of pronouncing each word in your head as you read it. Most people do this to some extent or another.
When you sub-vocalize, you "hear" the word being spoken in your mind. This takes much more time than is necessary, because you can understand a word more quickly than you can say it.
To turn off the voice in your head, you have to first acknowledge that it's there (how did you read the first part of this article?), and then you have to practice "not speaking." When you sit down to read, tell yourself that you will not sub-vocalize. You need to practice this until this bad habit is erased. Reading blocks of words also helps, as it's harder to vocalize a block of words. (See below for more on this.)
Eliminating sub-vocalization alone can increase your reading speed by an astounding amount. Otherwise, you're limited to reading at the same pace as talking, which is about 250-350 words per minute. The only way to break through this barrier is to stop saying the words in your head as you read.

Reading Word-by-Word

Not only is it slow to read word-by-word, but when you concentrate on separate words, you often miss the overall concept of what's being said. People who read each word as a distinct unit can understand less than those who read faster by "chunking" words together in blocks. (Think about how your eyes are moving as you read this article. Are you actually reading each word, or are you reading blocks of two, or three, or five words?)
Practice expanding the number of words that you read at a time. You may also find that you can increase the number of words you read in a single fixation by holding the text a little further from your eyes. The more words you can read in each block, the faster you'll read!

Inefficient Eye Motion

Slow readers tend to focus on each word, and work their way across each line. The eye can actually span about 1.5 inches at a time, which, for an average page, encompasses four or five words. Related to this is the fact that most readers don't use their peripheral vision to see words at the ends of each line.
To overcome this, "soften" your gaze when you read – by relaxing your face and expanding your gaze, you'll begin to see blocks of words instead of seeing each word as distinct unit. As you get good at this, your eyes will skip faster and faster across the page.
When you get close to the end of the line, let your peripheral vision take over to see the last set of words. This way you can quickly scan across and down to the next line.


Regression is the unnecessary re-reading of material.
Sometimes people get into the habit of skipping back to words they have just read, while, other times, they may jump back a few sentences, just to make sure that they read something right. When you regress like this, you lose the flow and structure of the text, and your overall understanding of the subject can decrease.
Be very conscious of regression, and don't allow yourself to re-read material unless you absolutely have to.
To reduce the number of times your eyes skip back, run a pointer along the line as you read. This could be a finger, or a pen or pencil. Your eyes will follow the tip of your pointer, helping you avoid skipping back. The speed at which you read using this method will largely depend on the speed at which you move the pointer.

Poor Concentration

If you've tried to read while the TV is on, you'll know how hard it is to concentrate on one word, let alone on many sentences strung together. Reading has to be done in an environment where external distractions are kept to a minimum.
To improve your concentration as you read, stop multitasking while reading, and remove any distractions. This is particularly important, because when you use the techniques of chunking blocks of words together and ceasing to sub-vocalize, you may find that you read several pages before you realize you haven't understood something properly.
Pay attention to "internal distractions" as well. If you're rehashing a heated discussion, or if you're wondering what to make for dinner, this will also limit your ability to process information.
Sub-vocalization actually forces your brain to attend to what you're reading, and that's why people often say that they can read and watch TV at the same time. To become an efficient reader, you need to avoid this.

Approaching Reading Linearly

We're taught to read across and down, taking in every word, sentence, paragraph and page in sequence.
When you do this, though, you pay the same attention to supplementary material as you do to core information. (Often, much more information is presented than you actually need to know.)
Overcome this by scanning the page for headings, and by looking for bullet points and things in bold. There is no rule saying that you have to read a document in the order that the author intended, so scan it quickly, and decide what is necessary and what isn't. Skim over the fluff, and only pay attention to the key material.
As you read, look for the little extras that authors add to make their writing interesting and engaging. If you get the point, there's no need to read the example or anecdote. Similarly, decide what you need to re-read as well. It's far better to read one critical paragraph twice than it is to read another eight paragraphs elaborating on that same concept.

Keys to Speed Reading Success

Knowing the "how" of speed reading is only the first step. You have to practice it to get good at it. Here are some tips that will help you break poor reading habits and master the speed reading skills discussed above.
  • Practice, practice, practice – you have to use your skills on a regular basis. It took you several years to learn to read, and it will take time to improve your reading skills.
  • Choose easy material to start with – when you begin speed reading, don't use a challenging textbook. Read something like a novel or travel-writing, which you can understand and enjoy with a quick once-over.
  • Speed read appropriately – not everything you read lends itself to speed reading.
  • Legal documents, the draft annual report, or even the letter you receive from a loved one in the mail - these are better read in their entirety, sub-vocalizations and all.
  • If you need to understand the message completely, memorize the information, discuss it in detail, analyze it thoroughly, or simply enjoy the prose the way the author intended, then speed reading is the wrong approach. (Here, it helps to choose an appropriate reading strategy before you start.)
  • Use a pointer or other device to help push your reading speed – when you quickly draw a card down the page, or run your finger back and forth, you force your eyes and brain to keep pace.
  • Take a step back and use the material's structure – this includes skimming information to get a feel for the organization and layout of the text, looking for bolded words and headings, and looking for the ways in which the author transitions from one topic to the next.
  • When you start speed reading, it's wise to benchmark your current reading speed. This way you can tell whether your practice is paying off, and you can impress your friends and family when you tell them that you can now read faster. There are many speed reading assessments online. One such assessment can be found at ReadingSoft.com.

Benefits of Public Speaking

Personal Benefits

  • learn to be more sensitive and skilled communicator
  • public speaking encourages you to look inside yourself and explore what matters to you-->share
  • learn to consider listeners-what do they want, need, like,care about
  • learn the power of speech-words have emotional content
  • words can hurt, heal, create, build, transform
  • in the beginning there was only speech...learner may only have speech
  • learn to focus topic, how to structure, learn to listen, critically evaluate, discriminate type of message, appeal is it valid?
  • learn to be active in learning--speak up and learn

Practical Benefits

  • can give or get help in class
  • oral communications always one of top skills demanded by employer- what occupation doesn't need it?
  • learn to speak concisely, clearly and confidently
  • will help you speak out in important situations, as parent, citizen, customer, tax payer Social Benefits
  • nature of human to form groups- depends on communication skills
  • learn ability to persuade others---change things for better--be involved- seek civil justice, human rights-democracy-freedom of speech

Cultural Benefits

  • learn to avoid ethnocentrism- one view that is right excludes many
  • learn to avoid stereotype--all not one race/culture- look at many cultures- expand point of view...learn to know individual-each a unique expression of many features...what groups do you belong to?

Tips to improve the way you speak English

Tips to improve the way you speak English

Many deserving candidates lose out on job opportunities because of their vernacular accent.
Can I 'neutralise' my accent?
Yes, you can. All you need to do is train yourself to speak English as comfortably and perfectly as you speak your mother tongue.
How do you train yourself? By inculcating certain practices in your daily lifestyle. These will get you closer to sounding like a native English speaker and equip you with a global accent -- and you will speak not American or British English, but correct English.
This is the first step to learn any other accent, be it American or British or Australian.
Lisa Mojsin, head trainer, director and founder of the Accurate English Training Company in Los Angeles, offers these tips to help 'neutralise' your accent or rather do away with the local twang, as you speak.
i.Observe the mouth movements of those who speak English well and try to imitate them.
When you are watching television, observe the mouth movements of the speakers. Repeat what they are saying, while imitating the intonation and rhythm of their speech.

ii. Until you learn the correct intonation and rhythm of English, slow your speech down.
If you speak too quickly, and with the wrong intonation and rhythm, native speakers will have a hard time understanding you. 
Don't worry about your listener getting impatient with your slow speech -- it is more important that everything you say be understood.

iii. Listen to the 'music' of English. 
Do not use the 'music' of your native language when you speak English. Each language has its own way of 'singing'. 

iv. Use the dictionary.
Try and familiarise yourself with the phonetic symbols of your dictionary. Look up the correct pronunciation of words that are hard for you to say.

v. Make a list of frequently used words that you find difficult to pronounce and ask someone who speaks the language well to pronounce them for you.
Record these words, listen to them and practice saying them. Listen and read at the same time.   

vi. Buy books on tape.
Record yourself reading some sections of the book. Compare the sound of your English with that of the person reading the book on the tape.

vii. Pronounce the ending of each word.
Pay special attention to 'S' and 'ED' endings. This will help you strengthen the mouth muscles that you use when you speak English.
viii. Read aloud in English for 15-20 minutes every day.
Research has shown it takes about three months of daily practice to develop strong mouth muscles for speaking a new language.

ix. Record your own voice and listen for pronunciation mistakes.
Many people hate to hear the sound of their voice and avoid listening to themselves speak. However, this is a very important exercise because doing it will help you become conscious of the mistakes you are making.

x. Be patient.
You can change the way you speak but it won't happen overnight. People often expect instant results and give up too soon. You can change the way you sound if you are willing to put some effort into it.

Quick tips
Various versions of the English language exist. Begin by identifying the category you fall into and start by improving the clarity of your speech.
~ Focus on removing the mother tongue influence and the 'Indianisms' that creep into your English conversations.
~ Watch the English news on television channels like Star World, CNN, BBC and English movies on Star Movies and HBO.
~ Listen to and sing English songs. We'd recommend Westlife, Robbie Williams, Abba, Skeeter Davis and Connie Francis among others.

10 Listening Tips For Better Communication


From the moment the first caveman interrupted his fellow Neanderthal with a grunt, the art of listening has been under attack.
We may think 21st-century technology is the culprit for making all of us poor listeners, but really listening is a skill that has never been a default part of human nature. Each of us is geared toward maximizing our own self-interest, and truly absorbing another person’s thoughts through spoken communication means temporarily setting aside that self-interest. We can’t think of a better time than the holidays to learn a few forgotten tenets about the craft of listening.
  1. Listen actively, the right way Every article on listening will have an obligatory mention of active listening, which we have all taken to mean: Every time the speaker finishes a sentence, you should say, “What I hear you saying is …” and then repeat their words back to them, slightly rephrased. But that is merely proving you’ve heard. Relationship guru/Oprah creation Dr. Phil explains that reflection of feeling, not fact, is more important in active listening. It involves not just parroting but processing, so that instead of replying to news of a dead grandmother with “When’s the funeral?,” you say, “I’m so sorry; you must be very upset.”
  2. Clean your lenses Usually subconsciously, each of us sees the world through lenses, or filters, as some call it. These are complex constructs of our ego, our belief system, our fears, our prejudices, and more. The problem is, these lenses tend to color the way we take in information by listening. To listen effectively (and not just hear what you want to hear), you have to remember to check yourself to ensure your own biases and preconceived notions are not distorting the message. A sure sign this needs to happen is when you catch yourself judging the speaker or labeling them with a generality or stereotype.
  3. Make allowances for gender differences You may swear up and down that you know this rule, but in the heat of an argument with your significant other, it usually goes right out the window (so maybe “little-remembered” is more accurate). Science has told us men only listen with half their brains, while women use the whole thing. This means that men can either think or feel, but they can’t do both simultaneously. Both men and women need to remain conscious of this fact while communicating. If it seems he is only listening to the facts so he can solve the problem, he’s simply defaulting to the “thinking” side. Guys, remember she may not want you to solve the problem; she may be more interested in communicating feelings to you. In that (frequent) case, engage the feeling side of your brain.
  4. Listen optimistically In today’s world of next-day shipping and instant streaming, we’ve gotten used to getting what we want when we want it, which is roughly now to five seconds ago. But conversation is a leisurely activity that shouldn’t be rushed; it often needs time to unfold organically and wind its way around before concluding or even finding its footing. If you go into it expected to be bored or offended (thanks to your filters), you probably will be, and at the very least your listening will be impaired. Instead, give your partner the benefit of the doubt and listen expecting to hear something important or worthwhile, either to you or the speaker. Think of it is an opportunity not to be entertained, but to perform a service.
  5. Don’t miss what the body language is saying A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Body language can be not only an opportunity to get the complete message (that may even contradict the words that are being said), it is a way for the listener to convey genuine concern and attention to what a speaker is saying. The eyes — known as “the window to the soul” — often speak volumes. Posture is a biggie; teachers can tell in one second which students are paying attention with a single glance around the room. Facial expression, proximity, and gestures can all factor in, as well.
  6. Mastering listening requires training As auditory neuroscientist Seth Horowitz pointed out in a recent New York Times piece, what separates listening from hearing is attention. Our hearing sense is a primitive self-defense mechanism that is still working even while we’re asleep and that is present even in the simplest creatures. However, good listening is not innate but can be improved with practice. Horowitz recommended listening to unfamiliar music, the pitch and timbre of your dog’s barks, and your loved one’s voice.
  7. Find the motive The goal of listening is to be able to empathize with the speaker, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see the world through another’s eyes. And like a detective investigating a murder, you have to first establish a motive for your speaker before you can have empathy for them. This is easier to do when the speaker is a person you know well, but when you don’t have any idea where a person is coming from, you’ll have to tactfully ask a few probing questions just to assemble enough information about his or her circumstances to be able to listen adroitly.
  8. Setting matters As with a good home theater, the environment for communication can make as much of a difference as the tools being used (and often it is similarly overlooked). Putting yourself on equal footing with the speaker is important, like both of you standing or both of you sitting. Obviously anything you can do to make the scene quieter will enhance your ability to listen, as will any setting that allows you to make eye contact and demonstrate good body language, as we’ve mentioned.
  9. Quiet your mind Since we’ve touched on the subject of quiet, there is a similar rule that is no less important to good listening: taming your thoughts. The phrase “monkey mind” has secured a spot in the vernacular as an accurate metaphor for the way our brains pop from one thought to the next, even when we’re supposed to be meditating or paying attention in class. However you overcome this distraction, whether by focused breathing or intense concentration, you’ll have to block those thoughts out to listen skillfully. Have you gotten the picture that artful listen involves work on your part yet?
  10. Don’t think ahead “Be prepared” is a wise maxim, but thinking ahead has no place in the art of listening. Forecasting what a speaker is about to say robs a listener of his attention and handcuffs his ability to follow along in the moment. Mentally predicting what someone else is going to say also inherently involves making assumptions (and we all know what those make out of you and me). This rule is part of the previous one about keeping your thoughts from running rampant and is difficult to pull off, but if you can your listening skills will be the better for it.


Listen Up! 10 Great Tips for Better Listening

Listen Up! 10 Great Tips for Better Listening

I'm listening
“I like to listen. I have learnt a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”  - Ernest Hemingway
Whenever I am in the middle of a discussion, I try not to talk too much and always listen to the person conversing with me. But sometimes all of those words wind up transforming into a garbled mess. At that point, I realize I’m actually impatiently waiting for the other person to stop talking. That way I can start talking again, feeling that I’ve got all eyes on me. Not a good practice, but it happens to the best of us.

In recent studies by Dr. Ralph Nichols, he mentions that almost 40% of the day is spent on listening to others. What amazes me is that the efficiency of listening to what we hear is only at somewhere around 25% — and I’m not talking about the physical comprehension. Is your boss giving you some tasks and you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of asking again what the exact steps were? Do you sometimes find it hard to listen to people that you really don’t care for all that much?

As with many other skill sets, in order to become efficient and effective at listening you need to train yourself to do so. Here are 12 tips that will put you on the road to better listening.

1. Find common subjects and try to stick to them as much as possible.

If you take a positive stance towards a specific subject, you will find that in most cases there is enough information to enrich your knowledge. No matter how sterile the conversation may be, you can still get some valuable information from it. Try to exclude personal elements in these subjects, as this is counterproductive to efficient listening. 

For example, if you love basketball and the person you are engaged in conversation with is passionately talking about soccer, you will likely find yourself wanting to end the conversation (or leave the room altogether). Try to exclude your personal preferences and be as positive as you can when someone is talking about something that you can tell they are interested in. Look at your conversation as a way to educate yourself — even if it is something you don’t necessarily like. Who knows…you may even change your mind about your feelings on the subject matter by the time the conversation is through.

2. Take the initiative.

What’s the person speaking to you saying? Look at him and focus on his words. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact. Put your effort into making the discussion a “two-way street.” If looking directly into the speaker’s eyes (or even the speaker’s personality) are distracting you, try to focus just on the message he’s pointing out. Make him feel that he is being listened to. Show your attention and use words and expressions like:
  • “I see.”
  • “Marvelous!”
  • ”Hmmm, interesting…”
  • “Sounds great!”
  • “Really?”
Make sure to be as honest as you can when responding to the person you’re conversing with; a lack of authenticity can often be sensed if you’re not being forthright.

3. Exercise your ears.

Prior to having a conversation, try to rehearse it in your mind. If the person you’re going to be conversing with is someone you know, try to remember what he likes to talk about and get in the right mood to listen. Remember, once you show people that you can listen them, they will listen in return. Efficient and effective listening requires a lot of energy, and practicing facilitates the success.

4. Focus your attention on the main ideas.

Follow the general points that the person is trying to express. In some cases, you will see that people have a way of building their ideas with specific models, such as:
  • Starting with a little introduction speech
  • Listing out reasons and motives
  • Examples and illustrations (which end with a conclusion and a call to action).
Try to identify the main ideas from the rest and focus on that. Don’t pay too much attention on details as that can get you away from the discussion topic — and they are more difficult to remember.

5. Take notes.

Do not be afraid to do this. Doing this will show the speaker that you have a real interest in his subject. If you feel that the discussion is really adding value to what you know, then keep with you a small notepad and a pen. It’s best not to write during key moments of the conversation. Instead, take short and punchy notes. Later on, you can read them and analyze the information. With some practice, you will be able to get rid of the writing tools and be able to better use your mind to take mental notes instead.

6. Don’t pay attention to outside elements.

Try to “close” your senses to the outside world — even for a minute or two. Show the speaking person that you really care about his words. If you’re uncomfortable standing, choose a more intimate spot for the two to you to sit down and discuss things. You will still be aware of the outside noise, but you will not pay attention. This is a wonderful technique that you can use not only for listening, but also when you are trying to learn something or simply want to meditate.

7. Avoid contradiction while the speaker is speaking, but be genuine.

This is perhaps the biggest obstacle in becoming a better listener. Don’t be affected by any words with an emotional charge. Teach yourself to recognize those words and expressions and think about why those particular words are affecting you. Then try to shift your point of view to align with the person speaking. Think more about his reason of using these words and be as open-minded as you can. 

Don’t let past frustrations within break out during the conversation. Once the speaker is done with his point of view, then take the time to speak your mind in a genuine and calm manner. Everybody appreciates sincere speakers, but more so if they are conscientious in their tone when they speak.

A quick and premature disagreement with the other person’s words can lead to a “blind spot” inside your interaction. Having an open mind will allow you to follow the real essence of the communication and not just some particular aspects that may cause friction. Avoid a critical stand and don’t write off the other person’s words as incorrect. However, if you strongly disagree with what he’s saying, don’t use aggressive words to make your point known. Start your arguments with phrases like:
  • “I understand what you’re saying, but I think that …”
  • “In my humble opinion…”
  • “Don’t you think that …”
Evaluate the communication message, not the person or the way he used to express it. We are not are not all the same. Listen and analyze before judging. Receiving the actual message is far more important than the person’s delivery of the message. Be aware of the mood, personality or tone of your conversation, but don’t let these things interfere with the reception of the message, as that is the most important part. Understand that there are many people who can’t properly express their feelings and can’t find the right channel for their message.

8. Be present.

I’ve mentioned the word “focus” several times so far. You should know that you need to focus also on the present, not in the past or future. Being “less than present” can open up unwanted discussion. Keep in mind your speaker’s words and try to place them in the present. Anything less can render the conversation meaningless for both yourself and the person you’re speaking with.

9. Analyze non-verbal communication.

Look for facial expressions and the way your partner is using body language. Joe Navarro’s research in body language has shown that almost 60% of communication is non-verbal. So, you need to “read between the lines” every time there’s an emotional approach to a topic. That way you’ll know what subjects to avoid and when to dig even deeper into a conversation.

10. Practice.

Repeat all the above tips whenever you are engaged in conversation. If you feel you’ve acquired some skills, try to approach new people and even people that seem difficult to speak with. This regular practice can do wonders for you. Becoming an efficient and effective listener isn’t easy, but once you start to make progress you’ll find that you get access to new information in one of the easiest way possible: by lending an ear.
(Image courtesy of Melvin Gaal under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 generic license.)