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Active Listening Tips for Program Participants

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One of two things typically happens to program participants who don’t listen actively. They become bored and tune out. Or, they become so engrossed in the program that they forget to take notes for later study. Here’s how to keep focused and to listen actively:

  1. Take excellent program notes while you listen. Keep your ears cocked and your pen poised for information that contributes to the main subject of the speech or to your own knowledge base.

  2. Be on the lookout for the speaker’s assumptions or opinions. Distinguish them from facts in your notes.

  3. Note any special words or phrases the speaker emphasizes. Also note any words or phrases that are used in a way that is unfamiliar to you.

  4. Listen for any conclusions the speaker makes. See if you agree with them.

  5. Jot down questions you’d like to ask the speaker. Also make note of questions or topics that you’d like to research after the program.

  6. Don’t react to the speaker’s arguments or conclusions while you’re listening to him or her. Doing so will reduce the accuracy of your notes and prevent you from paying full attention to the rest of the program. While the program is in progress, concentrate only on recording what the speaker says – his or her main points, supporting data, opinions, assumptions, arguments, conclusions, etc.

  7. After the speech, set aside some time to reflect upon it and review your notes. It is best to review what you heard soon after the program, while your memory of the program is still fresh.

  8. Create a second set of notes. Revise your notes in the most orderly way possible. Embellish your second set of notes with additional points your memory retains, recording as much detail as you can. While your first notes might be abbreviated, your second set should be very complete.

  9. Review your second set of notes and react to them. Expressing your own reaction, in writing, is a vital part of active listening. In your notes, answer the four questions that are listed below:

A. Were there any points of the program you failed to understand? Ask: What did the speaker mean by this or that word? Did the speaker’s arguments make sense? If not, where, specifically, did you have trouble following the argument?

B. On what points did you agree with the speaker? Why? On what points did you disagree? Why? Do you disagree with the speaker because of reasons he or she gave or because of additional reasons of your own?

C. Were there some conclusions the speaker made that you can’t clearly agree or disagree with? Did the speaker support those conclusions adequately? Can you provide the support needed to confirm or deny those conclusions? If not, what must you do to help you make up your mind about the matter in question?

D. What significance does the program have for you? What changes will you make, in behavior or attitude, as a result of participating in the program?


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