There are many situations in life that require the ability to listen effectively. Listening doesn't just involve taking in words, but understanding and applying logic to them. A perceptive listener is one who understands the words said and grasps the emotional subtext conveyed by subtle nuances in language and expression. To listen effectively, maintain eye contact, avoid distractions and treat listening itself as an interesting mental challenge.
Listening to Learn
One way of listening focuses on acquiring information. This is the way you listen when you're being taught a class, when you're watching the news or when you're getting instructions from your boss. The emphasis is on correctly understanding the meaning of the words themselves --- and being able to remember them in the future. To listen this way you need to have a good vocabulary and look past possible poor delivery to the information contained.
Listening to Understand
When you listen to your best friend talk about the problems in her marriage, that requires a different set of perceptive skills. In this case, you are not so much trying to understand the meaning of her words as you are trying to understand her. To do that well, you should pay attention to body language --- both hers and your own --- and show her that you are focused on her. Be patient and supportive, and demonstrate empathy.
Listening to Appreciate or Critique
Appreciative listening is what happens when you listen to a piece of music you love. It generates an emotional response. On the other end of the spectrum is critical listening, which is what you should do any time you get approached by a salesman or a politician. The critical listener evaluates the trustworthiness of the speaker and the logic of his arguments. He is able to distinguish emotional appeals from intellectual proofs and makes his decisions accordingly.
Listening to Discriminate
However else you are listening, and whoever you are listening to, the way to be really perceptive to is to listen beyond content to the subtleties of language and sound. The better you understand English and the significance of one word over another, the easier this will be. Listen to what words receive emphasis, and which ones are stumbled over. Pay attention to the emotion in the speaker's voice, just as you would pay attention to musical notes that are played differently.
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