Better Listening

This page has tips on how Toastmasters helps you to become a better listener.

What qualities makes a good listener?

Take a moment to think of the best listener you know - someone you really feel you can talk to and who truly understands you.

Now think about what makes them such a good listener.

What do they do that lets you know they are listening to you?

This page looks at the skills you need to become a better listener.

Hearing vs Listening

According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, the definition of Hearing is "to perceive sound with the ear" whereas listening is "to consider with thoughtful attention."  So, hearing is a physical thing, but listening is a cognitive response to what has been heard.

Barriers to listening

There are many barriers to hearing and listening.  Listed below are the most common barriers:

Barriers to Hearing

  • Background noise
  • Health issues

Barriers to Listening

  • Lack of interest
  • Fatigue
  • Distractions
  • Environment
  • Impatience

Results of poor listening skills

The results of poor listening can be many and varied, but chief amongst these are:

  • Misunderstandings
  • Lost opportunities
  • Wasted time

Characteristics of an effective listener

Effective listeners display many characteristics.  They:

  • Must be an active listener
  • Evaluate speaker's words and feelings
  • Put themselves in speaker's shoes
  • Feedback what they think the speaker means

Effective listeners listen with their ears, eyes, head and heart!

Keys to effective listening

So, how can you be an effective listener? By applying the following seven points you can improve your listening skills in any situation:

  1. Find areas of interest
  2. Judge content, not delivery
  3. Hold your comments till the end
  4. Listen for ideas and themes
  5. Concentrate on listening
  6. Resist distractions
  7. Keep your mind open

How do you learn listening skills at Toastmasters?

Table Topics - Listen, Think, Speak

  • Listen to the topic
  • Think of a response
  • Deliver a short speech

As a Speaker - Think, Speak, Listen

  • Think of a topic
  • Deliver a speech
  • Listen to evaluator's comments

As an evaluator - Think, Listen, Speak

  • Think about topic
  • Listen to speaker
  • Give feedback to speaker

Winston Churchill once said, "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

Links to More Resources



Toastmasters International Public Speaking Tips

Toastmasters International Video LIbrary