Objectives, Outline, and Introduction

Chapter 4: Listening Effectively

By Jenn Q. Goddu, M.A.
Queens University of Charlotte, Charlotte, NC

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

  • explain the difference between listening and hearing
  • understand the value of listening
  • identify the three attributes of active listeners
  • recognize barriers to effective listening
  • employ strategies to engage listeners
  • provide constructive 
feedback as a listener

Chapter Outline

  • Introduction
  • Hearing Versus Listening
  • The Value of Listening
    • Academic Benefits
    • Professional Benefits
    • Personal Benefits
  • Three A’s of Active Listening
    • Attention
    • Attitude
    • Adjustment
  • Barriers to Effective Listening
    • Anticipating
    • Judging
    • Reacting Emotionally
  • Strategies to Enhance Listening
    • Keep an Open Mind
    • Identify Distractions
    • Come Prepared
    • Take Notes
  • Providing Feedback to Speakers
    • Non-verbal Feedback
    • Verbal Feedback
  • Encouraging Effective Listening
    • Make Your Listeners Care
    • Cue Your Listeners
    • Convince Them to Engage
  • Conclusion
  • Review Questions and Activities
  • Glossary
  • References
  • Appendix A: Listening Profile

“You’re not listening!” An unhappy teen shouts this at a concerned parent. A frustrated parent yells this as a toddler runs through a parking lot. A teacher says it while flicking the overheard lights on and off, trying to get her unruly students to heed her. A woman offers these three words as a parting shot before hanging up on her significant other. A man complains of this to his spouse during a couple’s counseling session. We can imagine all these scenarios and more; all of them rooted in a speaker wondering if his or her audience is truly listening.

Man listening to child

“Listen to your kids” by Bindaas Madhavi. CC-BY-NC-ND.

Public speaking requires an audience to hear. Otherwise it’s private speaking, and anyone overhearing you might wonder if you’ve lost your wits. What makes public speaking truly effective is when the audience hears and listens. You might think the two are synonymous. But they aren’t, as you will soon understand. In a classic listening text, Adler notes, “How utterly amazing is the general assumption that the ability to listen well is a natural gift for which no training is required.”[1] Since listening requires great effort, this chapter offers the skills needed to listen effectively.

Developing your listening skills can have applications throughout your educational, personal, and professional lives. You will begin by examining the difference between hearing and listening. This module will also help you understand your role as a listener, not only in a public speaking class, but also in the world. You’ll read about attributes of an active listener, barriers to listening, and strategies to listen better. Finally, building on valuable lessons regarding listening, this chapter concludes with suggestions public speakers can use to encourage audiences to listen more attentively.

We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less. – Diogenes

  1. Adler, M. J. (1983). How to speak, how to listen. New York: Macmillan.