Listening & Participation

10 Bad Listening Habits and How to Turn Them Around

  1. Calling the Subject Dull
    • Listen with a fresh ear. You may learn something new! 
  2. Criticizing the Speaker
    • Look beyond the speaker themselves to the message being delivered!
  3. Getting Overstimulated
    • Try not to judge the argument until you have heard it all.
  4. Listening Only for Facts
    • Look for main ideas and principles instead of facts.
  5. Trying to Outline Everything
    • Remain flexible in your note taking strategies.
  6. Faking Attention
    • Be active and engaged in your attention!
  7. Tolerating Distraction
    • Avoid distractions and distracting behavior
  8. Choosing Only What’s Easy
    • Broaden your listening arena to include new things!
  9. Letting Words get in the Way
    • Strange or strong language can be off-putting. Remain patient
  10. Wasting the Differential
    • Reign your thoughts to follow everything that is being said, without running away

Adapted from J. Seltzer and L. Howe, “Poor Listening Habits: Identifying and Improving Them”

Learning by Listening

You can learn a lot through listening. In college, it will be a prime source of information. Unfortunately, people do not instinctively listen well. Quite the reverse! Listening is a skill which must be developed. If you apply the following suggestions, you will find yourself listening more effectively, both in class and out.

  1. Determine why what the speaker is saying is important to you. Have an immediate, vivid reason for listening to a speaker.
  2. If you can't hear, arrange things so you can. Move away from sources of noise-human or mechanical. Sit where you can see the speaker easily, and where other distractions are at a minimum.
  3. Look for the speaker's pattern of organization. In a lecture, a speaker is generally referring to notes or some other source of information. You can understand much better if you are able to recognize what the speaker's driving at and how the speaker's getting there.
  4. Look for the main idea or ideas of the presentation. Facts are important only as they support the speaker's points. If you have trouble distinguishing between the important and the trivial, a friend or a tutor in the Academic Skills Center can help you.
  5. Listen to what the speaker is saying. Don't tune the speaker out because you don't like something about him/her or the message. Be sure you understand something and why you do not like the message before you reject it.
  6. Don't let your mind wander. Your thoughts move far more rapidly than the swiftest mouth, and the urge to stray is tempting. Your attention span can be increased, however, through deliberate effort. Continue to practice the habit of attention and don't be discouraged by early failures.
  7. Take notes while you listen. Even if you recognize everything being said, jot it down.