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How to Listen and Retain

Active Listening Tips

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Have you ever zoned out during a lecture? After listening to your teacher or guest speaker several minutes, do you sometimes realize that absolutely nothing is sinking in?

If this sounds familiar, you might need to sharpen your listening skills a little. After all, if you plan to go to college or get a job in the future, you’re going to have a lot of speeches to listen to. You can improve your retention by practicing active listening.

What is active listening? Imagine that you’re just sitting down in class to take notes, when the teacher announces that “there will be a quiz on this lecture.” Suddenly, you’re more alert. You watch attentively as your teacher speaks and you underline each and every word that is emphasized or repeated.

Each time you sit down to listen to a speaker or a class lecture, you should listen as if you’re going to be tested on the material. After all, you might be!

Here are some tips to help you learn to improve your listening skills:

  • Listen for verbal clues. Your teacher will emphasize any important terms and concepts.
  • Watch for nonverbal clues. Eyebrows, hands, pauses, eyes: these features all show expression when your teacher makes an important point.
  • Be mindful of your own reactions. When your teacher says something that sound interesting, curious, or surprising, go ahead and nod or smile. If the teacher says something boring or unpleasant, try not to have an ugly response. Why? To keep yourself on track. As long as you’re managing your reactions, you’re still listening.
  • Avoid making predictions. If we think we know what someone is about to say, we stop listening and start drifting.
  • Focus on the words, not the person. Don’t get distracted by an ugly dress, weird hairstyle or goofy tie.
  • Don’t get caught up on one detail. Stay on pace.
  • Don’t let your mind wander. Put that food, person, music, or daydream out of your head and save it for later.
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