Effective Public Speaking
Effective Public Speaking

Effective Public Speaking

Lead Author(s): George Griffin and Contributors

Student Price: Contact us to learn more

Designed to teach the skills and build the confidence your students need to become effective public speakers.

This content has been used by 6,007 students

What is a Top Hat Textbook?

Top Hat has reimagined the textbook – one that is designed to improve student readership through interactivity, is updated by a community of collaborating professors with the newest information, and accessed online from anywhere, at anytime.


  • Top Hat Textbooks are built full of embedded videos, interactive timelines, charts, graphs, and video lessons from the authors themselves
  • High-quality and affordable, at a significant fraction in cost vs traditional publisher textbooks
 

Key features in this textbook

Effective Public Speaking gives students the confidence and competence in preparing and presenting speeches with real student videos, a comprehensive glossary, up to five in-class activities per chapter, and a full chapter on controlling speech anxiety.
Using Bongo for Top Hat, students can practice their oral communication skills and get feedback from instructors or their peers.
Built-in assessment questions embedded throughout chapters so students can read a little, do a little, and test themselves to see what they know!

Comparison of Public Speaking Textbooks

Consider adding Top Hat’s Effective Public Speaking textbook to your upcoming course. We’ve put together a textbook comparison to make it easy for you in your upcoming evaluation.

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

$121.80

Hardcover print text only

$99.29

Hardcover print text only

$114.52

Hardcover print text only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Content meets standard for Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology course, and is updated with the latest content

In-Book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

$121.80

Hardcover print text only

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

$99.29

Hardcover print text only

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

$114.52

Hardcover print text only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

In-book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Top Hat

George Griffin, Effective Public Speaking, Only one edition needed

McGraw-Hill

Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking, 12th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, 9th Edition

Pearson

Beebe & Beebe, Public Speaking Handbook, 5th Edition

About this textbook

Lead Authors

George Griffin, Professor of SpeechKeiser University

George Griffin earned his degrees at the University of West Florida and Auburn University. He has been teaching college, business seminars and workshops for over 30 years, while still doing public speaking engagements for non-profit organizations. Currently, he is serving as the Professor of Speech at Keiser University, Orlando, and as Adjunct Professor at Stetson University. George is also the author of “STAGE FRIGHT! A Student-Friendly Guide to Managing the Jitters.”

Contributing Authors

Wade CorneliusNew Mexico State University

Kathryn DederichsUniversity of St. Thomas

Morgan GintherInstructional Designer at Texas A & M

Luke GreenSt. Cloud Technical and Community College

María Elena BermúdezGeorgia State University

Daryle NaganoEl Camino College

Wendy YarberryFlorida State College at Jacksonville

Allen DavisIndiana University

Jasmine RobertsOhio State University

Krista MacDonaldDoña Ana Community College

Explore this textbook

Read the fully unlocked textbook below, and if you’re interested in learning more, get in touch to see how you can use this textbook in your course today.

Chapter 6: Listening Skills

'His Master's Voice'​ [1]


“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
-Ernest Hemingway

Table of Contents

Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter you will:

  • Understand how hearing differs from listening.
  • Appreciate the challenges we face as listeners.
  • Learn helpful listening skills.
  • Build an understanding of how listening occurs in different contexts.
  • Utilize your understanding of listening to make you a better speaker.


Q6.01

Do you think you are a good listener?

Introduction

Midterms are right around the corner.  You find yourself attending all of your classes, caffeinated beverage in hand, paying extra close attention to what is being shared in class so that you can do well on the upcoming test. Your laptop is out so that you can take notes, your book is open, and you're making eye contact with the instructor to make sure that you can receive the information that's being shared. In your mind you compliment yourself for listening and being such a great student. It is at that time that the teacher points you out, and asks you a question about something that was just explained. Your mind goes blank and you can't provide a good answer. How could this be? You were in class, you heard what was said, and you were taking notes. Yet when it came time to make sense of all of the information received, you were unsuccessful. It is times like these that we realize just how challenging listening can truly be.

Despite our best efforts, we are often terrible at listening (if you're thinking that this does not apply to you, you will soon have a chance to prove me wrong). Listening effectively requires effort, knowledge, stamina, memory, and all sorts of other attributes that we will get into during this chapter.

Q6.02

What listening challenges or distractions do you think makes listening in class so difficult?


Test Your Listening Skills

In order to measure your ability to listen you will need a piece of paper and writing utensil. Clear your mind and environment of any distractions and simply listen to the following video. A list of numbers will be shared with you and it is your job to listen. After you have completed the video, pick up your writing utensil, and write down the numbers that you heard in the order in which they were shared.

Watch the following video only one time.

Click here to see the script for Video 6.01.


Q6.03

Please write down the numbers that you heard in order, there are 20 digits in total. Enter them in with no spaces.

It is very likely that you were unable to remember them all. Before you verify the answers to see how successful you were, let's try this again.

Before we do so, I would like to offer a listening goal for you. This time when you are listening to the numbers think about years in American history.

Watch the following video only one time.

Click here to see the script for Video 6.02.

Q6.04

Please write down the numbers that you heard in order, there are 20 digits in total. Enter them in with no spaces.


Listening goals can help you hold on to important facts. [2]

Did you improve? Most people will. There are several reasons for the improvement: 

  • The fact that you are hearing the same list for the second time provides repetition, which aids your ability to recall and make sense of the message.
  •  A listening goal (years in American history) was provided that allowed you to search for meaning within an otherwise random list. This simplifies the listening process; instead of trying to remember 20 seemingly random numbers (14921776186519452001) you only needed to focus on five four-digit years: 1492 (Columbus), 1776 (Declaration of Independence), 1865 (end of the Civil War), 1945 (end of World War II), and 2001 (September 11 attacks). These dates should be quite familiar to those who paid attention in history class.

Hearing Does not Guarantee Listening

This activity helps point out an important point to keep in mind about listening: simply hearing the sounds vibrate upon your eardrums doesn't mean that you will receive information or be able to derive meaning from the sounds. Throughout a given day we are surrounded by constant messages that we have the potential to process and make sense of.

Your day may start with an alarm clock. While making your way to class you can take in the noises that surround you: noisy cars, chirping birds, and eavesdropping on the conversations of those around you. In class you are treated to over an hour's worth of lecture, discussion, and information you are expected to retain. While this is going on, you may be engaging in a side conversation with the person sitting next to you. After class you might have a part-time job where your success is dependent on your ability to understand customers and respond to their needs. To end your day you find time to socialize with friends and take in some television before going to bed. After sleeping for a few hours you awake in the silence of your room, check your clock, see that it's 3:00 a.m. and go back to sleep.

The next morning, how much do you actually remember about the things that you have heard in the last 24 hours? You probably remember a few things quite well, while other details have escaped your mind. What were the people walking in front of you talking about on your way to class yesterday? You attended all of your classes, but do you know specifically what was talked about? Would you feel comfortable taking a quiz on the material right now? You can continue to reflect on your day moment by moment and try to remember what information you retain and in doing so you will find some things are extremely vivid, other things are not so clear.

Q6.05

Which of the following is true?

A

It is possible to hear without listening.

B

It is possible to listen without hearing.

Hearing Versus Listening

Hearing and listening are two different things. Although the two words are oftentimes used as synonyms (e.g. “I heard what you said.”“I listened to what you said.”), for the purposes of providing a deeper understanding of how we communicate, a clearer distinction must be made.

Hearing is a physiological process. Listening is a cognitive process. 

Just because you are hearing a conversation doesn't mean you are listening! [3]

Hearing occurs when a source creates sound waves that travel to the destination of a receiver’s eardrums that then provide electrical impulses alerting that person of the various changes in sounds surrounding them (Quite an earful, isn't it?). It does not require effort on your end, it just sort of happens unavoidably. Short of plugging your ears or insulating yourself from receiving the sounds, you cannot stop this process. Simply having noises bounce off your eardrums is not enough to make sense of what is being communicated.

Once you choose to make sense of the sounds around you a different process begins. This is where listening comes into play. Listening is the process of making sense and giving meaning to what you hear.

If you're watching a film in a language that you do not speak, you will be able to hear all of the noises that are being produced by the actors and actresses, but unfortunately, you will have very little idea of what the noises you hear actually mean. Conversely, if you're watching a film in a language that you do understand, not only will you hear the rise and fall of their voices, but you will be able to give specific meaning to the words, sentences, and ideas that are being conveyed. Listening allows us to give meaning to what we hear throughout a day.

When your day starts with your alarm going off, you are likely able to distinguish that noise from a fire alarm, a phone ringing, or a television in the background. Through listening, you are able to determine that it is your alarm clock and not your roommate’s alarm, meaning that you can associate it with a need to act: getting out of bed and turning off your alarm (or more realistically hitting the snooze button and repeating this process over again in ten minutes).

During your walk to class, hearing a car approaching an intersection can indicate that you probably shouldn't step into the road in front of it. Chirping birds might mean that spring is on the way, and overhearing people talking on the sidewalk turns random sentences into juicy gossip.

In this scene, you would likely hear the cars and any other ambient outdoor noise, but you'd probably listen to the geese, as they are an unexpected presence crossing a busy street. [4]

In class you are able to sort through the lecture and determine what information is purposeful and relevant towards your success in the class, versus a cute side story that was provided by your instructor with very little practical value.

By listening at work you can more successfully understand customers and respond to their needs.

Listening is even present when you wake up in the middle of the night to silence at          3:00 a.m. When this happens and you hear nothing, you will probably feel comfortable rolling over and going right back to sleep. Although you probably don't make a hyper-conscience statement to yourself along the lines of “I hear nothing, which means that my home is not on fire or being burgled by an intruder,” it is how we make sense of the situation. The alternative, for example, is waking up and hearing a loud shrieking fire alarm or a noisy television that you forgot to turn off, which would require you to get out of bed.

Making an effort to listen may help but it does not guarantee success when trying to make sense of the sounds that you're trying to comprehend. Remember, listening is a process. Telling yourself to listen to something does not guarantee your brain will do a perfect job of understanding what the other person is trying to convey to you. 

Putting yourself in the best position to listen, rather than hear, doesn't guarantee that you will, in fact, listen. [5]​

The Listening Process

Listening doesn't just happen. There are certain steps that must be accomplished in order to successfully receive a message. Failing to complete each step within this process doesn't guarantee a complete lack of effective communication; however, it will affect our ability to receive the message in the way that it was intended by the speaker.

Steps of the Listening Process

As we have seen, a few important things must take place to change hearing into listening. As we have gotten quite good at making sense of the noises around us, we often overlook the complexity within this process. There are five main steps in the listening process: receiving the message, understanding the message, processing the message, responding to the message, and retaining the message. How successful we are at completing each step affects how we continue to process the remaining steps.

Receiving the Message

The first step of the listening process is to receive the message. It is very difficult to listen to something if you cannot hear it. This is not as simple as sitting within earshot of the speaker. Rather, it requires you to remain actively focused on receiving the speaker’s words and tuning out distractions. When listening, you are constantly competing against items that will distract from your ability to successfully receive the message.

The term given to anything that interferes with our ability to receive the message is noise. Noise, in this context, is a much broader term than what you are probably used to. It does not just refer to chatty audience members, background noise, and ringing cell phones, it also includes things like your levels of fatigue and daydreaming. There are three main types of noise: external noise, physiological noise, and psychological noise.

By being aware of these types of noise, steps can be taken to prevent the noise from becoming a distraction. 

External noise, as mentioned above, is a distraction that occurs in your listening environment that is not from the sender or receiver of the message. This type of noise is what you probably think of when initially being asked how noise affects the message as it is the most obvious. Whether it's chatty audience members sitting behind you, commotion happening in the hallway beyond the room you are in, or being in the middle of a crowd at a loud concert, external noise can interrupt the original message you're trying to listen to. While all external noise cannot be prevented, you can do your part by making sure that your cell phone is turned off, and refrain from making noise that will distract yourself and others.

Being hungry or tired makes it very hard to listen properly, no matter how hard you try. [6]​

Physiological noise can be just as distracting as somebody talking into your ear while you are trying to listen to somebody else. Physiological noise is your body's way of providing biofeedback that lets you know it needs something. It does this in the form of: pains in your stomach (“I need food”), feeling tired (“You’ve pushed me too hard, I’m out of energy”), sweating/uncomfortable (“Get me out of here”).

As a student, you are quite aware of how sitting in a classroom while your body communicates these things makes focusing in class an absolute struggle. You know your body best. Make sure that you give yourself the best chance possible of being able to benefit from hearing information by limiting physiological noise as best you can. For example, get a good night’s sleep, or be sure to eat before going to class. Managing physiological noise is relatively easy; however limiting psychological noise can be quite difficult.

Our brain is a powerful thing that is capable of amazing feats, such as processing information and thinking of items all at once. This means that when it is expected to just focus on one message it is prone to boredom. If we were able to remain 100% focused on what we should be listening to, we perhaps would be great listeners. Unfortunately, this rarely happens.

Receiving a message from a speaker is roughly as difficult as driving a car at 30mph (if done correctly, both require a certain amount of attention, but are not over-the-top difficult). Because our brains are so quick and powerful, listening to a single message during a speech may feel like driving a souped-up sports car in 30 mph traffic. In these instances our brain and the car simply want to break free. We can become antsy and anxious, waiting for the pace to pick up so that we can engage in something more stimulating.

As a result, when listening and waiting for the speaker to get their message out, we might start processing something else, like what we are doing later that day (much like we think we can adjust the radio while driving the car at such a slow pace). When this occurs you may still be able to receive a majority of what a speaker is saying (and you won't likely get into a car accident if the radio distraction is brief). But as you begin to divide your focus and attention to additional items, it will begin to hamper the likelihood that you will successfully receive the message being shared (or successfully be able to drive the car). If, after adjusting the radio, you check your phone, your appearance in the mirror, and the backseat to make sure that you didn't forget your backpack, then your ability to simultaneously operate a vehicle becomes seriously compromised.

Being bored very quickly spirals into no longer paying attention. [7]

Psychological noise can act in the same way. It starts with a quick thought of how your professor might have a hair out of place. This inspires you to think about what your own hair looks like. You know that taking out your phone and taking a selfie would be distracting, so instead you take a quick look at all of your classmates and see who has their hair out of place. Although you see a few whose hair is amiss, you realize that this is a poor method of being able to verify the status of your own hair.

You lean over to catch a reflection of yourself in the chrome leg of the chair in front of you. There you are, you look fabulous, and an ease of calm flows over your body. It is at this time that you realize that you have just missed the last fifteen seconds of your instructor assigning homework. Upon this realization, you do some soul-searching about how vain you must be to allow such a flippant thought to distract you from the education that is costing you thousands of dollars. You feel sad and you wonder if songs have been written about people like you. Upon realizing that songs have indeed been written about people like you, you snap back into reality and realize that while beating yourself up for not focusing you missed your instructor repeating what the homework was. You have failed at listening.

We are all prone to these tangential thoughts on occasion. Knowing about psychological noise and acknowledging the negative impact it can have on our ability to remain focused on the message we are supposed to be attending to is a great first step to resolving this type of noise.

Q6.06

Not effectively receiving the message because of your awareness of how thirsty you are would be considered what type of noise?

A

Psychological

B

Physiological

C

External


Q6.07

Not effectively receiving the message because it’s hard to hear the teacher over an annoying fan from a classmate’s laptop would be considered what type of noise?

A

Psychological

B

Physiological

C

External


Q6.08

Not effectively receiving the message because you are too busy paying attention to the funny accent of the speaker would be considered what type of noise?

A

Psychological

B

Physiological

C

External


Receiving the message requires you to be able to remain focused cognitively on the original source you are hoping to listen to. Limiting the effect of noise allows you to have the best chance at succeeding with the remaining steps.

Understanding the Message

Once you have received the message you are able to begin making sense of the sounds that you are hearing. Words join each other to create sentences, sentences join to create paragraphs, and paragraphs join to create the overall perceived meaning of the message. As a result of our ability to understand language, meaning can be shared between the speaker and the receiving audience.

Just because you understand language doesn't guarantee you understand the message. If the wording of a phrase is done in an overly complex way, it can make it quite difficult to understand what the speaker is trying to convey to you.

Click here to see the script for Video 6.03.

This speaker uses language that you are quite familiar with. However, the complexity of the message makes it very difficult to understand what the person is actually trying to say when communicated through public speaking. When reading we have the luxury of pausing and rereading messages to ensure comprehension. When we’re listening to a speaker we do not get this opportunity. Therefore understanding messages becomes more difficult.

Another thing that will complicate the understanding process is if the speaker is using language that we are unfamiliar with.

Click here to see the script for Video 6.04.

If we are not familiar with what the words mean, we can attempt to use context to figure them out. Unfortunately, we aren't always successful in this endeavor, which results in ineffective listening. In this case, providing the same message, in terms that are more familiar, would help listeners understand better. 


Click here to see the script for Video 6.05.

If the audience understands the message they can move on to the next stage, processing.


Locked Content
This Content is Locked
Only a limited preview of this text is available. You'll need to sign up to Top Hat, and be a verified professor to have full access to view and teach with the content.


Processing the Message

Once we have received the message and understand what is being conveyed to us, we must try to make sense of what is being shared in terms of the larger context. It is at this point that we must process the message and fit it in with our current understanding of the world around us. Although we may speak the same language, how we perceive and come to understand what the speaker is trying to say varies from listener to listener. For example, suppose the president held a press conference and made this announcement:

“Tomorrow I am signing a bill that will allocate $600 million nationwide to help build elementary schools for future generations of students.”

If you received the message and understand the words used, you understand what the person is trying to convey on an informative level: money is being spent to build schools. During the listening process we often take messages like this a little bit further by filtering them through our own worldview. For instance, if a conservative Republican heard this message they might not view this plan as a positive one, as it is spending a lot of money that needs to be produced by taxing citizens. A liberal Democrat might react favorably to this message, as it is creating jobs and investing in our children's future. The parents of a high school student might be concerned that only elementary schools are being built, while the high schools are still underfunded. Our own perspectives and value structures greatly affect the ways we process and listen to messages that are being received.

It is particularly important to keep this in mind during persuasive speaking. The speaker will deliver one message; however, each person in the audience will process the message in a slightly different way. Therefore, it is important to understand how our own filters might prejudge a message before we hear it through entirely. Keeping an open mind until the message is received and understood is important so that when we do process the message it is given a fair chance of being perceived.

Unfortunately, if we come into communication with a closed mind, we may only seek out and process what supports our prior held beliefs. We may filter out the parts of the message we don’t want to hear, or we may be motivated to find flaws in what the speaker is saying as a result of our initial disagreement with the message (or messenger). Neither of these approaches process the entirety of the message in a thoughtful way. Our goal is to be as impartial as possible when listening to persuasive arguments. If the hypothetical message from the president, mentioned above, was shared with a thoughtful listener, that person should be able to appreciate both the potential benefits and potential drawbacks of the issue as opposed to quickly supporting one side while ignoring the other.


Responding to the Message

When listening to others we often offer feedback to indicate that the message is being received. During personal conversation this can come in varied forms: validating (“I totally agree”), paraphrasing (“That's great you were able to get the position even though they weren't hiring”), asking questions (“what were you saying about zoo animals?”), or offering nonverbal feedback (nodding).

During most public speaking situations, the feedback that the audience gives is almost exclusively nonverbal. Slight nods, looks of confusion, laughter, eye contact, and many other responses can help indicate to the speaker that the message is being successfully (or unsuccessfully) received.

As the sender of a message, you don't always have a lot of confidence that a message was received if the person you're talking to hasn’t looked up from their phone the entire time you have been speaking. Whereas if you approach a friend texting on their phone to start a conversation with them and they begin making eye contact with you, offering nonverbal responses to different parts of your message, it lets you know that they are paying attention and comprehending your message.

As an audience member, providing good nonverbal responses to the speaker helps you let them know if you're confused, upset by their argument, or if you perfectly understand what is being discussed and wish that they would move on.

Although not as helpful to the speaker, responding can be an internal process. How does a message you have received, understood, and processed fit into what you knew about the topic prior to starting this listening process? Has your perception of the topic shifted (e.g. “I’m more supportive of the topic”)? Do you feel more enlightened as result of doing these first three steps (e.g. "I have a much better understanding of this topic”)? This is a form of responding to the message.

Retaining the Message

The final stage of the listening process is arguably one of the most difficult, and that is being able to remember what has been communicated to you. It is very similar to the proverbial tree that falls in the forest with nobody around to hear it. What is the purpose of listening, if immediately after making sense of the message, it is erased from your mind? Has listening taken place? Anyone who has let their significant other down, by forgetting something that they had told them, understands that the excuse “I'm sorry, I was listening. I just forgot,” isn't always accepted as a legitimate reason for not remembering what was shared. Similarly, if we receive, understand, process, and respond to the professor’s lecture, but don’t retain the information when it is time for the quiz, we haven’t completed the listening process.

If you think back to the listening exercise that began this chapter, you no doubt heard each of the numbers, and understood each of the numbers that were being shared. Unfortunately, with no way to make sense of the message, they went in one ear and out the other. This happens with a large majority of what we hear throughout the day. Unless we are able to convert information from our short-term memory into our long-term memory, information we attempted to retain will largely be forgotten. 

Q6.09

Sort these parts of the listening process in order of occurrence:

A

Understanding the message

B

Receiving the message

C

Responding to the message

D

Processing the message

E

Retaining the message


Locked Content
This Content is Locked
Only a limited preview of this text is available. You'll need to sign up to Top Hat, and be a verified professor to have full access to view and teach with the content.




Types of Listening Styles

All listening opportunities are not the same. The way we approach the process varies depending on what context we are in. How you listen to a biographical speech about George Washington (informational listening) vs. how you listen to a persuasive speech on a fad diet (critical listening) vs. how you listen to a standup comedian (socially-oriented listening) are all very different as you are most likely listening to them for different reasons.

Informational Listening

Click here to see the script for Video 6.06.

Informational listening is an approach taken when your listening goal is to become more knowledgeable as a result of understanding and retaining the message. You listen to your instructors primarily to receive information that will provide you with knowledge or abilities that will benefit you in the future. These benefits can be short term (doing well on an upcoming test) or long term (developing an ability that you will use daily throughout your career). When receiving an informative message, the amount of content you are expected to retain can become overwhelming. Other times, the information is quite dull. It is at times like these that it is important, as a listener, to search for value within the message that is being received.

While listening, keep in mind how the information you are receiving can potentially help you in the short or long term. If, for example, your professor were to say, “This next piece of information will be the first question on the midterm exam…” you would definitely commit that information to memory. Unfortunately, important information doesn’t always come with a flashing red neon light. You need to seek out the valuable information.

If a speaker has credibility, a dynamic delivery, and an engaging personality it certainly makes informational listening a lot easier. When these things are not present we let the negative personality of the speaker hamper our ability to engage in informational listening. As such, we don’t benefit from the information they share.

In life you will need to listen to people you do not like. Whether it is a manager, coworker, family member, or instructor, these individuals provide you with information that is worthwhile. A problem to listening that you may face in situations like this is that you might be tempted to think you do not need to listen based on who is sharing the message. This essentially is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Discarding the entire message because of who is saying it, before giving careful consideration, is self-defeating. Separating the message from the speaker allows you to evaluate the merits of the message, independent of who the source happens to be.

Q6.10

What would be the most obvious type of informational listening setting?

A

Stand-up comedy show

B

New employee orientation meeting

C

Sales pitch

D

Motivational speaker


Critical Listening

Being ‘critical’ is oftentimes viewed with a negative connotation. The word critical, as defined by Merriam-Webster, can be interpreted as somebody who is “expressing criticism or disapproval.” Merriam-Webster also offers the definition of critical to mean “using or involving careful judgment about the good and bad parts of something.” The latter definition is the one we use in public speaking when discussing the importance of critical listening skills.

Critical listening is an approach taken when your listening goal is to evaluate whether the message should be accepted or rejected. Critical listening employs critical thinking to help arrive at a good decision. You go through the message received with a fine-tooth comb to determine whether or not the message is worthy of being trusted, or to determine if it falls short of what is needed.

In order to do this you must evaluate the message as a whole, paying particular attention to: speaker credibility, evidence and reasoning supporting the message, and appropriate use of emotional appeals. As you are a citizen in a democratic society, who is constantly bombarded by persuasive messages, being able to effectively practice critical listening is a must. Through critical listening you are able to evaluate the overall quality of a message in order to make well-informed decisions.

Critical listening is an important skill to have while listening in any context. It can be used during informative speeches to evaluate the quality and accuracy of the information shared. During persuasive speeches, being able to listen critically allows you to arrive at logical, well-thought-out conclusions after hearing such messages.

Click here to see the script for Video 6.07.

If you're viewing this video without being 100% focused on what is being said, it can come off as a pretty compelling argument for why we should consider this pill if we are looking to lose weight. Somebody who is not engaging in critical listening might conclude the following things: The speaker is dynamic. The speaker is credible. The speaker offers evidence.

Critical listening occurs when a receiver will not simply take the speaker's word at face value, but instead does their own thinking about the issues. Yes, the speaker is dynamic and enthusiastic about this product; however, she could act enthusiastic about eating nails, too. She claims to be credible because she is a sales representative. Granted she probably had to undergo some training before she got this part-time job; however, as a sales representative she has a vested interest in selling as much of this product as possible.

It is true that she offers evidence, but what kind of evidence? Is it the $50 set of pills that causes the weight loss, or the restrictive diet and exercise regimens that help her see results? Her use of emotion by saying we don't want to be ‘the one person at a pool party who is afraid to put on your swimsuit’ might be misguided as well. Is trying to make someone feel shame about who they are, and implying that they are ‘lesser’ simply because of their physical appearance, an ethical way to make a sale?

Critical listening is the approach taken when you want to make sure that you make the right decision. As you can see, there are several considerations that need to occur in order to make sense of the message being presented. Although it is a little bit of extra effort, the conclusions you arrive at can save you from little mistakes, like buying that late night infomercial item, as well as big mistakes, like investing your retirement in a Ponzi scheme.

Q6.11

What would be the most obvious type of critical listening setting?

A

Stand-up comedy show

B

New employee orientation meeting

C

Sales pitch

D

Motivational speaker


Socially-Oriented Listening

Click here to see the script for Video 6.08.

Socially-oriented listening is an approach taken when your listening goal is to enjoy the message, be entertained, or create a bond between you and the speaker. These types of messages don't have the same stakes that we sometimes see when we are listening critically. Special occasion speeches and other less formal speaking opportunities aren’t focused exclusively on trying to change your mind or inform you of some vital information. Rather, they seek to entertain you by sharing a dramatic story, a funny chain of events, or a motivational message. It is during these listening opportunities that our goal is to simply build a connection with the speaker through the sharing of their experiences. Socially-oriented listening focuses on helping build the relationship between speaker and audience.

When we listen in these types of situations it is similar to when we listen to a friend recount a story from their past weekend. We aren’t taking notes in case there's a test later. We don't automatically throw out their message if they exaggerate certain details. Instead we enjoy the relational connection that is forged through the experience of hearing them share a part of themselves with us.

Q6.12

What would be the most obvious type of socially-oriented listening setting?

A

Stand-up comedy show

B

New employee orientation meeting

C

Sales pitch

D

Political policy speech


Challenges to Effective Listening

Becoming an effective listener isn't simply a choice that one makes and then ‘poof’ you're a great listener! Rather, becoming an effective listener requires you to be able to keep certain listening obstacles at bay so that you can receive the information that you desire. Some of these obstacles include message overload, managing psychological noise, and at times, dealing with a lack of motivation.

Message Overload

Psychologist George Miller is credited with establishing that our short-term memory can hold  7 ± 2 items at a time. What this means is that if we listen to a speech where there are more than nine important independent pieces of information that we need to make sense of, we are going to have a very difficult time doing so (much as experienced in this chapter's opening listening exercise).

Most speeches you hear have the potential to become overwhelming because of all the content that is presented, leading to message overload. You know that the information is of value, yet there is very little you can do to make sure that it all gets captured and encoded into your long-term memory. As a result, our ability to capture every important aspect of information is compromised.

Psychological Noise

As mentioned above, all three types of noise have the potential to interfere with your message. Often, speaking halls will utilize sound baffles and barriers to minimize external noise. Limiting physiological noise is relatively simple as we are able to manage many distractions that our bodies present. Unfortunately, because of your brain’s rapid thought processes, psychological noise remains a prevalent threat to your ability to listen effectively. Rapid thoughts, which arise while processing what has just been said, present the temptation to think about items that are not related to the speech. 

Lack of Motivation

We do not always have the energy or motivation to listen as closely as we should. When this occurs, it becomes very difficult to exert the amount of attention and effort it requires to truly receive, and make sense of, the message that is being shared. This apathy towards listening to the message creates a situation where only hearing is likely to take place.

Now that we have taken a look at some of the major obstacles you face, let's explore what can be done to increase our listening abilities.

Effective Listening is a Skill

A lot of things go into listening, and as you can see by now, being an effective listener takes much more than simply sitting in a chair and hearing a message. Becoming an effective listener is something that takes practice and effort. Much like any other skill or talent, the more practice and time spent focusing on honing your abilities, the more strengthened those abilities become.

Active Listening

Active listening occurs when a listener is very mindful of how they are taking in the message that they are listening to, rather than passively allowing the words to come to them. In order to do this, a receiver must set listening goals for what they want to get out of the message.

If you recall the number exercise, once you were given a listening goal your ability to understand, retain, and recall that information became much easier. Many speakers will do a good job of providing listening goals for you; however, you are perfectly capable of coming up with your own listening goals depending on what you want to get out of certain messages. By setting these goals, you are able to seek out information that helps you better understand and achieve these goals. Doing this allows you to weed out the fluff and organize the stuff that matters to focus primarily on the helpful information.

During active listening, you should be trying to connect what you are learning to information that you already understand well. Much like it was easier to connect random numbers to years in history, your ability to take in new information is aided by being able to connect it to past lessons you have learned.

Take Brief Notes

A tried-and-true trick to help increase the amount of information you can retain is to write it down. Taking notes as an audience member is a wonderful way to create individualized concrete memories of the information you are taking in. Taking notes during a speech is very similar to listening to a lecture in class. When doing so, it is important to write down only key information, so that you don't get bogged down trying to capture every single word out of the speaker’s mouth. After you have an understanding of what you feel is important to remember, begin capturing it in your notes. Students often feel that externalizing their thoughts, through the note taking process, is a good way to create additional memories of the information that was shared.

Listening Responsibilities as an Audience Member

As an audience member, you have certain ethical responsibilities to the person who is delivering the message. This does not mean that you must agree 100% with everything the speaker says; however, you must respect their opportunity to speak. As part of having the privilege to listen to somebody’s speech, you are expected to fulfill your role in the speaking environment by being an attentive receiver of the message.

Any distractions should not impede your sole purpose, which is to listen to the message being presented to you. Just as you must not give in to distractions, you yourself must not become a distraction to the speaker, or other audience members. This includes standing up and leaving the room during a speech, clicking a pen, texting, and an assortment of other random behaviors which you would think college students (or adults in general) would know better than to commit. However, during most speeches, there is almost always that one person who does one of those things. Please do not be that person. Primarily, because it is disrespectful to the speaker, but also because you are embarrassing yourself.

During a speech, it is important to provide attentive listening feedback to the speaker. This means that you are active in the responding stage of the listening process. Doing so is mutually beneficial to you and the speaker. If you indicate confusion in a subtle nonverbal way, the speaker will be able to know that what they are currently explaining is not making sense to you. They will then be able to adjust their message accordingly. Conversely, you should also acknowledge when you are receiving and understanding what the person is saying. That way they will know they can move on and not bore you to death by over-explaining something that you clearly understand.

Apart from just conveying your level of understanding with your attentive listening feedback, you are helping the speaker gain confidence that their message is being received. Staring daggers at a speaker or appearing to be extremely bored might not do wonders to the speaker's confidence level. Although the angst-filled bully inside of you might relish this, the joke is probably on you, because the message you're going to receive will suffer as result of your behavior.

Instead, by encouraging the speaker everybody wins. You receive a message that is worthwhile, and they gain the confidence they may need to do a good job. This does not mean you need to be on the edge of your seat for every speaker, but you do need to respect the dignity of those who take time to prepare their message for you.

Once the speech is over, your responsibilities do not have to end there. Providing the speaker with feedback after their speech, or engaging them in conversation about the topic, is helpful in many ways. It allows speakers to know what strengths and areas of improvement exist within their current message. It also gives you the opportunity to get more in-depth information about your curiosities on the topic. Providing this feedback does not have to happen immediately following the speech, but can be initiated through e-mail or conversation at a later date.

Using Listening Skills to Become a Better Speaker

The listening skills discussed thus far have been from the perspective of an audience member. Knowing about these listening skills will help you become a better audience member, but they can also help you as a speaker. The lessons learned can be applied to the way you plan and deliver your own messages. Using what you know about the listening process provides you with a guide to how your audience is digesting your message and awareness of the listening challenges that they face throughout your message. This will help you deliver your message in a way that makes it easier for the audience to listen.

Locked Content
This Content is Locked
Only a limited preview of this text is available. You'll need to sign up to Top Hat, and be a verified professor to have full access to view and teach with the content.


Help Establish Listening Goals for Your Audience

Within your speech introduction, and throughout your message, you have a wonderful opportunity to help guide your listeners to focus on your thesis and main ideas. Clearly providing them with this information helps them to set their own realistic goals of what they  should get from your speech. Much like the listening exercise at the beginning of this chapter became much easier when the random numbers were turned into relevant years, you can help the audience focus on how they can take in the information you have to share in an organized and easy to recall way.

Inclusion of Internal Previews and Summaries

Providing listening goals at the beginning of a speech is not enough. Throughout your message continuously be aware of the fact that your attentive audience might become overwhelmed by your message. This will have a negative effect on their ability to understand and process your message. By including internal previews and summaries, you are able to act as a “narrator” to help make your message easier to understand and follow. As you learned in Chapter 5, these previews and summaries can serve as transitions between main points. But they also aid in listener retention.

The audience will now know what you hope to accomplish within each portion of your speech while offering them a chance to catch their breath and to see if they are making sense of the message in the way that you intended.

An internal preview appears at the beginning of a main point and provides the audience with an overview of what is ahead, as well as serving as a short-term listening goal. These previews act as miniature introductions for the main ideas that you hope to share with your audience. They alert the audience to what they are about to learn, and how it will benefit their understanding of the overall message.

Click here to see the script for Video 6.09.

An internal summary is found at the end of a main point and offers a brief recap of the information that was just discussed. It summarizes a section of your speech into a condensed and easy-to-understand rundown of what you hope the audience takes away from that portion of your message.

Click here to see the script for Video 6.10.

Help the Audience Overcome Noise

Noise will inevitably creep its way into your message. We do not have complete control over our speaking environments, but we need to do what we can to help mitigate noise as much as possible.

Oftentimes external noise does occur during speeches. Sometimes it is a result of a rude audience member’s cell phone, other times it is the result of someone being loud right outside the room where the speech is occurring. Either way, as a speaker, it is important to help overcome these kinds of complications by doing what you can to make it easier for the audience to listen.

Doing so requires you to use good judgment. Sometimes it is advisable to simply compensate for the noise by speaking louder. Other times it is best to wait for the noise to subside before trying to continue your message.

Physiological noise can be difficult to remedy, as there's very little feedback that the audience is able to provide to you. While preparing your speech, make sure that you plan a message that keeps your audience interested. If your message is full of very dry, seemingly irrelevant, statistics it may instill apathy into your audience. This can be remedied by inserting more stimulating supporting materials and delivery techniques to help invigorate the audience. If your audience looks bored, tired, or disinterested during your message, consider varying your delivery method to help create enthusiasm, or give the audience a more active method of processing your speech.

Psychological noise can be minimized by creating a desire within your audience to remain focused on your message. By constantly providing worthwhile and intriguing information, in a dynamic way, you will be able to keep the audience's psychological noise at bay. Once the audience believes that your message is not for them, or you give them reason to doubt your credibility, unfortunately psychological noise will start to take over. Psychological noise is similar to physiological noise in the sense that it can be difficult to pick up on through feedback, as audiences can be quite good at pretending to listen.

Making Sense of Audience/Evaluator Feedback

Throughout your speech and upon completion of your message, you will be provided with all sorts of feedback. The laughter (or lack thereof) you received during jokes, the engagement levels from your audience, and how enthusiastically they applaud at the end, all provide you with information pertaining to the overall successes and shortcomings of your message.

These types of nonverbal feedback can be hard to decipher. Thankfully during a speech class, after you speak, you will be provided with feedback that is much more detailed and specific. Your instructor is an obvious source of feedback; however, your fellow classmates can be a great resource as well.

It is important, when receiving feedback, to approach it from a perspective of objective informational listening. The purpose of feedback is not to tear down a speaker or “make it personal.” Providing you with specific feedback gives you an assessment of where your strengths and weaknesses lie as a speaker. Telling a speaker that they are absolutely flawless does very little to help them grow as a speaker. On the other hand, telling a speaker that there is nothing that they did right does not help them grow either. The purpose of feedback is to help provide the speaker with information from a different perspective.

It is easy to accept glowing praise as absolutely earned while discrediting criticism as an error in the evaluator's judgment. Neither of these approaches will give you honest self-evaluation. It is important to listen to feedback in order to receive a benchmark of where you are currently compared to where you were previously, as well as where you are currently compared to where you would like to be in the future. Using feedback for these purposes will allow you to see what improvements you have made as well as what work still needs to be done to achieve your goals as a public speaker.

Summary 

This chapter has demonstrated that hearing is the easy, but listening takes finesse. With active engagement throughout all stages of the listening process, we are able to understand messages that are shared with us from other communicators. If we slip up during this process, we run the risk of not being able to make sense of what was said.

By being aware of, and overcoming, the challenges that are present in listening situations, we can become better audience members and better speakers. Approaching speeches from a particular listening style and utilizing effective listening strategies allows for us to achieve our listening goals in a much easier fashion.

It is important that, as speakers, we use our knowledge of the communication process to better structure and prepare our messages in order to help our audience benefit from what we say. Making sense of the feedback presented to us by the audience will help us adjust and improve in our future speaking opportunities.

Presenters Toolboxes



End of Chapter Checklist

After reading this chapter, you should be able to say to yourself:

  • I understand how hearing differs from listening.
  • I appreciate the challenges we face as listeners.
  • I can demonstrate helpful listening skills.
  • I have an understanding of how listening occurs in different contexts.
  • I can utilize my understanding of listening to make me a better speaker.
Locked Content
This Content is Locked
Only a limited preview of this text is available. You'll need to sign up to Top Hat, and be a verified professor to have full access to view and teach with the content.

Video Scripts

Video 6.01

One, four, nine, two, one, seven, seven, six, one, eight, six, five, one, nine, four, five, two, zero, zero, one

Click here to return to video.


Video 6.02

One, four, nine, two, one, seven, seven, six, one, eight, six, five, one, nine, four, five, two, zero, zero, one

Click here to return to video.


Video 6.03

After taking a census of animals being kept in shelters nationwide, and of course adjusting for the differentiation between rescue, humane and no-kill shelters on a state by state basis, allowing for open-adoption/pet center shelters. I have discovered the ratio of ugly cats to potentially attractive dogs available for adoption to be 24.6 to 39.1.

Click here to return to video.


Video 6.04

The practice of aeromancy had been a niche pastime for courtiers in the citadel.

Click here to return to video.


Video 6.05

In medieval times, some of those who were in the royal entourage would spend free time within the castle walls making predictions of the future based on the day’s weather

Click here to return to video.


Video 6.06

When you are completing a tune up for your bike successful cleaning and lubricating of the drivetrain is tremendously important. There are three main steps in this process. First take a firm brush and scrub all of the excess dirt, grime, and other accumulated material from your chain and gears and wipe them clean. By doing this it will remove foreign materials that make it hard for the chain to move smoothly. Once finished take a specialized bike lubricant and lubricate each section of the chain making sure that each link receives a drop or two. Lastly wipe away any excess lubricant from the chain. If you do not clean away the excess lubricant it will act as a magnet for dust and dirt requiring you to clean your chain more frequently

Click here to return to video.


Video 6.07

This pill is an absolute wonder drug, Take it from me and the results I have experienced. I have lost 10 pounds in the last two weeks as a result of this pill. The pills do cost four dollars per day but that price is well worth the results you will see. One slight drawback of taking this pill is that you must adhere to a strict diet and exercise schedule in order to see strong results.

For example, tomorrow I will take one pill as soon as I wake up. Complete my morning one-hour workout. Then for breakfast I am able to have one banana. For lunch I can have 3 carrots and 1 cup of yogurt. Then for dinner, after I've completed my evening workout, I will take another pill and eat a 4 ounce piece of chicken with broccoli. As you can see these pills are amazing and are responsible for all of the weight I have lost

Click here to return to video.


Video 6.08

One of my favorite memories of my grandfather was the first time that he let me drive his truck when I was 12. He lived on a farm and during the summers I would usually visit for weeks at a time to help with some of the chores. We were on our way back from the grocery store and he told me the story of how his dad first let him drive as soon as he could see over the dashboard. At the end of his story he pulled the car over to the side of the dusty rural highway and told me that although times had changed it was about time that I learned to drive. After a brief tutorial and making sure that my seat belt was secured I promptly started the ignition and put the car into drive. I took my foot off the brake and we began to roll backwards, I had unfortunately put it into reverse. In my panic instead of stomping on the brake pedal I stomped on the gas causing us to rocket backwards eventually stopping safely in the ditch. We sat there in silence for a few seconds taking in what had just happened and I was expecting him to get quite mad at my mistake. After couple more seconds we both burst out laughing.

Click here to return to video.


Video 6.09

Now that I have demonstrated the frustrations caused by texting-while-walking let's focus on the benefits created by banning this practice on campus. Which are: increased spatial awareness, less congestion in hallways, and a stronger sense of community.

Click here to return to video.


Video 6.10

You should now have a better understanding of the two different leagues in Major League Baseball. The National League is older than the American League and requires pitchers to bat in the lineup. The American League differs in that it has the designated hitter position to replace the pitcher when batting.

Click here to return to video.


Image Credits

[1] Image by Francis Barraud in the Public Domain.

[2] Image courtesy of geralt-9301 in the Public Domain. 

[3] Image courtesy of Fondo Antiguo de la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Sevilla under CC BY 2.0

[4] Image courtesy of Jason Pratt under CC BY 2.0.

[5] Image courtesy of rejon in the Public Domain.

[6] Image courtesy of Daisuke Tashiro under CC BY-SA 2.0.

[7] Image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures in the Public Domain.

Listening
Listening requires thinking and reasoning; it requires context, interpretation and meaning - much more than simple hearing.
Hearing
Sounds vibrating from the eardrum; hearing is a physiological process.
External Noise
Distraction from the listening environment that is not from the sender or receiver of the message - the noise going on around you.
Physiological Noise
Biofeedback from your body.
Psychological Noise
Internal preoccupations that affect your mind’s ability to correctly interpret messages.
Context - noun
The circumstances in which an event occurs.
Feedback - noun
Verbal and nonverbal confirmation to the sender or speaker that you have received the message.
Informational Listening
When your goal is to gain simple information from a message.
Critical Listening
When your goal is to evaluate a message for correctness, trustworthiness, whatever you need to make a decision about what you’re hearing.
Socially-Oriented Listening
When your goal is to simply enjoy a message or to be entertained.
Message Overload
So many details or examples that your brain feels overwhelmed with information.
Active Listening
Rather than passively allowing words to come and go, be mindful as you listen to a message.
Internal Previews
An overview at the beginning of a main point of what lies ahead.
Internal Summary
A brief recap at the end of a main point.