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The Art of Active Listening – 10 Winning Strategies

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In a world where everyone is busy putting across their opinions and keen on proving a point, it is important that we listen to others. Unless we listen to what the other person has to say, how can we put across opinions and think of proving a point? This is where the context of listening skills in English help gains prominence.

Both listening and speaking are important. They are basically the heart and soul of a healthy communication. So, now that you are here, willing to know how to embrace the art of active listening, take some time to read this blog. It shall introduce you to the bigger picture. To be frank, signing up for activities for listening skills can enhance your lifestyle in several ways.

  • It enhances the sense of understanding. The moment you start listening to others and try to comprehend where they are coming from, things get much more streamlined and easier for both individuals.
  • You get to understand why certain things are being placed in certain manners and why the other person is anxious, angry, frustrated, or defensive.
  • This, as a result, prompts your brain to be considerate and understand things peacefully before reacting.
  • Active listening is quite important in relationships as well. 70% of arguments occur due to poor listening skills and the tendency to react loudly.
  • On the contrary, if we slow down a bit, sit back, and allow the other person to vent their mind, then we can easily avoid the odds of unnecessary arguments and verbal spats.
  • It is relevant in the sector of academics as well. At times, students miss out on listening to their teachers or taking note of the lessons delivered.
  • As a result, they fail to implement those learnings in their assignments, thus, bringing down academic performance significantly.

So, in order to combat these odds, read this blog and get introduced to amazing strategies that will sharpen your listening skills like never before.

Activity 1: Reflective Listening

Reflective listening refers to the activity that involves paying attention to the speaker, respect their opinions and express feelings that go well with their communication style. Basically, reflective listening helps you to be more considerate, tolerant, and kind, even during an argument on a burning topic.

Honestly, there is a thin line between making noises and striking a conversation. We should always aim for the latter. So, the idea is to hear and understand the other person and let them know that you have acknowledged their perspective and understood their feelings.

Now that you are introduced to the meaning and application of reflective listening invest some time in noting down step-by-step instructions for practicing reflective listening activities.

Step 1: Listen more, talk less

The one who observes things closely listens carefully and reacts less is the wisest of all. Not every topic or point of argument deserves your reaction. This calls for the activity where you practice listening to words, phrases, perspectives, sentences, and everything that’s being communicated. It is only after a thorough analysis of what you heard and comprehended you should choose to react or reply back.

Step 2: Always clarify before reacting

It is important that you clarify things prior to reacting to certain words that may come crashing in. Fact check is essential as it helps you to uncover the real truth and origin of the claims. The idea is to keep calm and restate the point of the argument in order to clarify whether the concertation is heading in the right direction. You need to understand that a baseless argument will only lead to further confusion.

Step 3: Pay attention to the speaker

As important as anything, you ought to pay attention to the speaker, listen to their words, mirror their thoughts, and express feelings that align with their perspectives.

Each of these activities ensures incredible benefits in the form of:

  • Better communication Healthier conversation
  • Constructive discussion
  • Positivity and peace

Activity 2: Listening to TED Talks or Podcasts

Do you know, as of December 2020, over 3,500 Ted Talks are available for free on the official website? Ted Talks have been viewed more than a billion times across the globe. Where are you? When it comes to developing listening and speaking skills activity, Ted Talks actually can be a very good medium. Now that you are wondering how Ted Talks can help you enhance your listening skills, here’s everything you need to know.

  • Ted Talks have an interactive transcript feature embedded in each segment.
  • This allows the listeners to view and listen the content in a productive way.
  • Apart from that, listening to the talks enhances a student’s ability to listen and comprehend things in an interactive manner.

The more you listen, the better you get in the matter of developing an ear for listening to what others have to say, what they mean, and what words and jargon they use during the conversation.

Well, here are some recommended TED Talks segments for you to listen to and grow.

  • Julian Treasure: 5 Ways to Listen Better
  • The Power of Listening
  • Celeste Headlee: 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation
  • The Power of Listening by William Ury
  • Amy Cuddy: Body Language

While these are only some of the most sought-after TED Talks you can watch right away, you can keep an eye out for more such productive episodes down the line.

Now that you have got the hang of this activity area take some time to read through the suggestions mentioned below and know how to keep things organized while going through the episodes.

  • Sit with a pen and a notepad.
  • Keep taking note of the segments and episodes you find interactive, relevant, and productive.
  • Jot down a summarized version of the TED Talks episode in a bulleted format.
  • Highlight new words, jargon, and phrases you would learn through the episodes.
  • Bookmark episodes you would find relevant and the messages you feel are important for you to save and refer to in the near future.

Activity 3: Pair Listening and Retelling

Pair listening and retelling can be a great way to sharpen listening and speaking skills. This is basically an interactive activity where a group of participants engages in listening, noting, retelling, and developing a sense of empathy and acknowledgment across the given set of topics.

Here’s how this activity helps develop both listening and speaking skills.

  • Every time you engage in a conversation by embracing the essentials of pair listening and retelling, you get to think critically and understand what the other person means.
  • For example, when we listen and attempt to retell a story, we tend to highlight or restate the main parts or the segment we found interesting and relevant.
  • This is exactly how things work when we sign up for pair listening and retelling activities.
  • Participants listen to the entire conversation and retell the same thing in their own words by comprehending the broader dimension and aspects.
  • As a result, it helps them to align well with the thoughts and perspectives of the speaker and vice versa.
  • The speakers, on the other hand, get to understand how their listeners react to the conversation, thus, striking the right balance between what has been put forth and the message received at the end of the day.
  • Stepping and walking in the shoes of the speaker is necessary, especially when it comes to enhancing listening and speaking skills.
  • Retelling a story or a topic of discussion simply makes it easier for the person to restate the entire context in a simpler manner so that others can understand the crux of the matter better and remember it longer.

Here are some guidelines on how you can go about this activity effectively.

Engaging in Group Discussions:

  • Arrange the session with like-minded people.
  • Choose a relevant topic of discussion.
  • Allow the speaker to put across their opinions on the same.
  • Make it a point to listen to the person without interrupting in between.
  • Keep taking note of the important points and aspects of the discussion.
  • Now, come up with your version of understanding and retell the entire story in your own words.
  • Remember, your explanation should sync well with the original topic of the discussion.
  • Use simple words and phrases while retelling the story.

Now that you are aware of the bigger picture in this context embrace the best practice and never look back.

Activity 4: Debate and Discussion Clubs

If you aim to become an ardent listener at the end of the day, then you must engage in productive activities such as signing up for debate and discussion clubs. The math is simple. The more you engage with others, the more you learn and comprehend things. Now that you are willing to know more about debate and discussion clubs take some time to read what we have jotted below.

  • Debate and discussion club, as the name suggests, is basically a platform where students can get together and practice arguing over a specific set of topics.
  • Some debate and discussion clubs follow traditional and structured formats, while others like to come up with trending topics and global affairs.
  • Being a member of such clubs will always help you to stay updated with the latest development in your niche of learning and oracy.

Most interestingly, these debate sessions are quite interactive and allow people to socialize, foster and create new ideas from time to time. The participants not only get to learn new topics and expand their knowledge base, but they also get to understand how to react to certain things and put across a point of argument in a respectful manner.

Here are some tips on how to listen actively during the debate sessions so that you can take some productive ideas and information home.

  • First things first, you should let the other person speak.
  • You should only come up with your opinion and perspectives after the speaker is done with his/her conversation.
  • One must practice patience during an ongoing debate.
  • Speaking in between an ongoing session or interrupting the speaker with unnecessary remarks is a big No-No.
  • Once the speaker is done putting forth his/her opinion, start recollecting what was said during the debate so that you can strike a conversation and place your version of understanding clearly.
  • Make sure you are respectful and rational while striking a counter-argument.
  • Come up with supporting evidence and back each claim with the right logical reasoning backed by facts and figures.
  • Remember, no debate and argument will ever turn out to be a constructive one if your claims and interpretation turn out to be baseless.

Activity 5: Book Clubs or Film Discussion Groups

Films hold great potential in the matter of changing worldviews, introducing new perspectives, expanding the ability to think critically, and putting across rationally acceptable views. Quite similarly, books are known to be the best modes of education, skills acquisition, and a powerful weapon that can help the world order evolve with time.

So, when it comes to enhancing reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills, we cannot afford to ignore the incredible contribution of books and films. So, how about joining book clubs or film discussion groups?

Here’s how it can help you develop listening and speaking skills.

  • The moment you start taking part in active film and book discussion sessions, you will start developing critical thinking skills.
  • Most importantly, book and film clubs help you move out of your comfort zone and discover a whole new world of possibilities, in-depth knowledge, and dimensions that elaborate on the broader aspect of social engagement.
  • Book and film clubs push you to form independent opinions across a wide array of topics and subject matters under the sun.
  • Reading books and watching movies allow participants to visualize the bigger picture and listen to the words untold.
  • At times, books give us extensive perspectives and opinions across topics and affairs that would have otherwise gone unnoticed or unattended.

Thus, being an active member of book and film discussion clubs will not only help you to develop speaking and listening skills, but it will also allow you to discover a myriad of untold facts, trivia, and interesting information across globally acclaimed subjects.

All said and done, let’s delve deeper and figure out some popular and recommended formats for book clubs and film discussion groups.

Format for Book Clubs

  • Choose an ideal genre to proceed with.
  • Remember, the idea is to pick an ideal theme for discussion and not a book.
  • Try and delve deep into the context of critical analysis of novels, classics, cult classics, and the like.
  • Put the spotlight on the authors, their contributions, approaches, and works.
  • Practice the art of listening, understanding, and putting across opinions accordingly.
  • Also, you can arrange open reading sessions for a cause – for example, global warming, creating a sustainable environment, uplifting the world economy, and the like.

Format for Film Discussion Groups

  • Market your film club well
  • Keep things authentic and exclusive
  • Choose different genres of films to discuss each day
  • Get into the nitty-gritty of critical analysis of films
  • Encourage participants to talk about a specific set of films by elaborating on elements such as social message, the backdrop of the film, period and timeline, elements of art used in the film, and the like.

This, as a result, will gradually foster spoken English activity and help each member of the film discussion club to embrace new activities for listening skills. So, keep referring to more such formats on the go and keep shining like a pro.

Interactive Listening Activities

Now that you are well aware of how book clubs and film discussion groups can contribute to your listening skills, let’s delve deeper and figure out how interactive listening activities can help you develop an ear for critical discussions and drawing well-knit conclusions to the same.

So, let’s elaborate on a few interestingly interactive listening activities for your knowledge and reference.

Language Exchange Programs

The language exchange programs provide opportunities for cross-cultural communication through language development. Here’s how such activities contribute in the matter of developing listening skills.

  • Language exchanges contribute to the aspect of oral fluency, proficiency, vernacularusage, colloquial vocabulary acquisition, and the like.
  • Most importantly, participants are exposed to the native speaker’s culture.
  • This helps in knowledge acquisition and a thorough development of critical thinking abilities.
  • Exploring new cultures and listening to what the natives have to say will not only enrich your knowledge bank but will also help you develop listening skills in English like never before.
  • In addition, getting introduced to a new culture and linguistic nitty-gritty will help you in understanding how certain languages are used and put across in certain ways.

So, if we consider each of the beneficial aspects mentioned above, it seems language exchange programs have great potential in building and developing listening skills. Now, let’s take a look at some of the recommended resources and platforms where you can find language exchange partners.

  • Speaky
  • LingoGlobe
  • Busuu
  • Fluent Future
  • Polyglot Club

While these are some of the most talked-about and sought-after resources and programs for language exchanges, you can certainly keep an eye out for more such platforms in order to stay ahead of the rest.

Now that you are aware of the platforms where you can find language partners and carry out your drill seamlessly, take some time to read through the following suggestions and know about some of the most interactive learning activities you can be a part of during language exchange programs.

  • You can engage in board games and word puzzles – the ones that allow you to sharpen grammatical skills and expertise.
  • You may prepare a public speech on your hobbies, passion, and other topics.
  • There’s nothing better than arranging an open debate session where participants get to exchange ideas, explore new lingual aspects, get to know new cultures, place their opinions, learn about others, and the like.
  • Also, one can simply carry out online conversations with an ideal language exchange partner in order to foster oral fluency and develop an ear for new words, phrases, and jargon.
  • You may engage in picture puzzles or activities that involve the task of pictorial description, role-playing, and the like.

Well, these are only some of the most popular interactive activities for language exchange programs; you can try out other avenues in the form of movies, video games, digital collaborations, traveling, guiding, vlogging, and more.

So, keep an eye out for more such activities and interactions, and never miss out on developing listening skills that would contribute to your overall understanding and knowledge acquisition.

Activity 7: Improv Workshops

Improve workshop can be a great medium in terms of signing up for activities that can improve your listening skills. Here, one person narrates a story for 90-100 seconds straight. The listener, on the other hand, is supposed to retell the story in first person tone by keeping things intact and as close to verbatim as possible.

Here’s how improv workshops can improve listening skills in a fun and interactive way.

  • Such workshops teach you more mindful concepts in an interactive manner so that you can participate in open discussions, share ideas, embrace the opinions of others, and develop listening skills accordingly.
  • It helps you to understand how to go with the trend, maintain a steady flow of conversation and acquire the right knowledge and insights into a plethora of subject matters under the sun.
  • All in all, it makes you a better listener as you learn new jargon, relevant phrases, and expressions from time to time.

Now that you are aware of the benefits of signing up for improv workshops, let’s take a closer look into the context and know about the activities and exercises that are usually included in such workshops.

  • Interactive games and collaborations in the form of “Word at a Time Story,” “Same Circle,” “Foreign Film Dub,” “Actor Switch,” and more.
  • You can think of coming up with team sports and activities that connect your peers, other participants, and acquaintances, all in the same thread.
  • Come up with interesting topics and context of discussion, something that would drive engagement and encourage participants to share new ideas from time to time.

Now that you are well aware of the potential activities and ideas that can make improved workshops a success let’s delve deeper and take a look at the importance of attentive listening and quick response in improved scenarios.

  • Quick responses determine how active you are when it comes to listening to what others have to say and restate the same or put across your opinions in a prompt manner.
  • This, as a result, helps you in developing an ear for acquiring new information, building new concepts, expanding research ideas and avenues.
  • In addition, being an active participant will always help you acquire the ability to take risks and quick decisions without the fear of being judged or questioned.
  • Moreover, an ideal improv workshop will allow you to acquire and develop absolute spontaneity and the ability to put across opinions or present ideas without any preconceived notions.
  • All in all, improv workshops help you to get the hang of how to be more collaborative in everything you do by being an active listener.

Mindful Listening Practices:

Merely attending workshops and being a part of film and book clubs will not help you develop active listening skills if you fail to embrace some mindful listening practices. Mindful or active listening refers to the practice of listening without judgment, interruption, and criticism. It also includes the practice of observing the various verbal and non-verbal messages being sent and providing active feedback on the same in a way so that it appears that you were really attentive to what was put across or conveyed by the speaker in the first place.

Now that you have got the hang of the drill let’s delve deeper and take a look at some recommended and productive guided meditation and mindfulness exercises.

Guided Meditation or Mindfulness Exercises

You need to understand there is a thin line between hearing and listening. When we hear, our ears just catch a few words and phrases as the speaker goes on putting across their opinions. On the contrary, listening is a much more intimate practice. Here, the listener is expected to pay undivided attention to what the speaker has to say. Active listening allows us to be present at that “moment,” delve deep into the communication, and interact with the person without judging and the likes. This is exactly where mindfulness and effective listening come into play. A mindful listener will always:

  • Pay heed to what the speaker has to say
  • Listen to the person with absolute attention and make the speaker feel valued
  • Strengthen communication by allowing the speaker to place forth their opinions
  • Improve relationship by removing all potential verbal and non-verbal roadblocks

Let me assume safely that you are now aware of the connection between mindfulness and effective listening. So, it’s time to refer to some good resources for guided meditation and mindfulness exercises entirely focused on listening.

  • Guided Meditations by UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
  • Greater Good Science Center
  • Podcasts – Untangle, Tara Brach, Daily Meditation., The Honest Guys

While these are some of the most sought-after resources and exercises you can sign up for mindfulness and effective listening exercise, you can always keep an eye out for other extensions in the form of blogs, journals, articles, and more.

Also, here are some major benefits of incorporating mindfulness into daily routines to improve listening skills. Read along.

  • Mindfulness helps you be “present” in the conversation in its truest sense.
  • When a speaker shares their thoughts and feelings, you are supposed to listen to them without questioning back.
  • Mindfulness helps you with the same by putting aside all forms of physical and mental distractions.
  • In addition, you get to embrace a much cognitive communication skill, a two-way street where both the listener and the speaker stay on the same page.
  • No matter whether you are a student or a working professional, mindful listening will always help you to carry out conversations in a constructive way with fruitful outcomes down the road.

Activity 9: Nature Sound Walks

Nature is the friend, philosopher, and guide we all need in our lives. The rustling sounds of leaves or the sound of a bird at a quaint place and a stream of water passing by can instantly make us feel better and optimistic in many shapes and forms. Quite similarly, it can help us become active listeners. Here’s how.

  • Listening to the sound of nature requires sheer attention, patience, and dedication.
  • And each of these attributes contributes to the practice of active listening.
  • When you start observing nature with all your senses, you gradually start exploring a wider dimension of untold communications.
  • This makes you more compassionate, attentive, and calmer.

So, it would rather be the wisest of all decisions if you consider spending time in nature walks or take this up as one of your hobbies. In the daily hustle and bustle of a chaotic urban life, let’s not forget the wonders nature can create. A few things in life come with no expiry date, and nature definitely tops the chart.

Try taking short breaks during the weekend and spend some time in the woods or walking barefoot on grass and the like. The more time you spend listening to the sounds of nature, the better you get at developing active listening skills. It’s a simple mantra!

Here are the key benefits of nature sound walks for relaxation and improving focus.

  • Nature sounds help improve your sleep cycle and allows you to gain more focus, thus, making you a better listener in the long run.
  • Walking in a forest or listening to a stream of water flowing by help us relax and foster patience and mindfulness.
  • Also, it allows us to be more observant and critical in terms of establishing strong communicative grounds.

Online Listening Resources:

Signing up for online resources and platforms can help you sharpen active listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in all aspects.

Here are some recommended websites and platforms that offer online listening exercises and quizzes.

  • Talk English
  • ESL Lounge
  • British Council
  • Lyrics Training
  • Breaking News English

These are only some of the most sought-after and recommended resources and digital platforms that offer online quizzes and listening exercises. You can always keep an eye out for more of such credible sites and platforms to take your listening skills to the next level of success and recognition.

Now, let’s take a look at some rewarding examples of interactive listening activities available online.

  • Online activities that involve paraphrasing and retelling of stories
  • Digitally available exercises that include Informational Listening, Critical Listening, and Empathetic Listening.
  • Activities that include – Listening for the main idea, Listening for Detail, Listening for Functional Language, Listening for Cultural Interest, Listening for a Sequence, and the like.

Each of these exercises needs to be carried out dedicatedly, and the participants are expected to invest their time and patience for successful and rewarding outcomes down the road.

Also, make it a point to acquire regular feedback on your regular listening activity practices and their outcomes. Here’s why they are important.

  • Acquiring and paying heed to active feedback allow you to identify the areas you lag.
  • It will give you a clear idea and a roadmap to working on your potential shortcomings.
  • You get to know how to practice more such interactive activities by referring to suggestions and broader avenues on the go.
  • Also, feedback provides reassurance to the speaker that the person is heard, understood, and acknowledged.
  • Constructive feedback can help you delve deeper into the lesser-known aspects and embrace new themes and topics for productive discussions down the line.

Parting Thoughts

So, keep referring to more such informative pieces and never miss out on making the most of your oratory and listening skills for constructive discussions, productive outcomes, and a sustainable environment where people pay heed to what others have to say before making a remark.

The idea is to speak and let others speak. If the world is only left with a bundle of opinions with no fact check or counter-argument, then the entire idea of striking a conversation will simply go down the drain in the long run.

In addition, active listening has long-term benefits across all spheres, including – academics, personal and professional.

Here’s everything you need to know.

  • Enhancing listening skills helps you to build trust and foster stronger relationships.
  • It helps you to lay more focus on daily assignments and shine as a promising student down the road.
  • It enhances productivity as the listener gets to come up with constructive feedback and develops a cognitive approach towards critical understanding and analysis of facts and figures.
  • An active listener will always practice patience and invest enough time in allowing the speaker to put across their opinions in the first place.
  • This, as a result, increases the chance and scope for a person to resolve conflicts in a better way.
  • Active listening fosters the right attitude and boosts emotive feelings.
  • Most importantly, it enhances constructive communication by streamlining all potential roadblocks.
  • Being an active listener fosters attentiveness. This, as a result, allows individuals to carry out responsibilities more constructively without the fear of committing silly good-ups and unnecessary mistakes.

So, it is always suggested you keep upgrading your knowledge bank, listen to what others have to say or convey, and react accordingly. Here are the key qualities that make you an active listener.

  • You don’t pay heed to distractions
  • You are always curious, up and active
  • You are compassionate and attentive
  • Your senses have good receptive power
  • You always ask the right question at the right moment
  • You listen to the speaker without judging them

So, that’s all, folks. Keep coming back to this space for more and enrich your concepts and ideas across a myriad of speaking skills topics like a champ.

Hi, I am Mark, a Literature writer by profession. Fueled by a lifelong passion for Literature, story, and creative expression, I went on to get a PhD in creative writing. Over all these years, my passion has helped me manage a publication of my write ups in prominent websites and e-magazines. I have also been working part-time as a writing expert for for 5+ years now. It’s fun to guide students on academic write ups and bag those top grades like a pro. Apart from my professional life, I am a big-time foodie and travel enthusiast in my personal life. So, when I am not working, I am probably travelling places to try regional delicacies and sharing my experiences with people through my blog. 

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