Listening and how to listen

Edward de Bono writes:

A good listener shows that he or she is paying attention to what is being said.
A good listener respects the speaker.
A good listener shows that he or she is genuinely interested in what he or she hears.
A good listener gets value from what is heard and shows that he or she is getting value.
All the above are to do with real attitudes and not just pretended attitudes. Unless you are going to be talking all the time, you are going to have to listen. So, do it well and get the most out of listening.” (italics in original, p.66)

“There are few things uglier than a listener who does not want to listen and is only waiting for the moment that he or she can speak.” (p.67)

Talking can show how smart you are. Talking can convince others of your views. Talking can help you clarify your own thinking. But talking only rarely gives you something new. Listening, on the other hand, can give you new ideas – if you try to receive them.” (p.67)

Take note of the words being used. Take note especially of the adjectives. Adjectives are almost always subjective. Adjectives tell you what the person feels rather than objective reality.” (p.70)
“Pay attention to the turn of phrase and the analogies that are used. Some of them might be useful for you to use yourself in the future.” (p.70)

“This is a very useful part of listening. You repeat back to the speaker what you think that person has been saying. [-p.71] Such repetition indicates that you have understood what was said. It also clarifies the situation in your own mind.” (pp.70-71)
To summarise, condense, recapitulate and feed back what has been understood is flattering to the speaker, who wants to know if his or her message has been received.” (p.71)

Questions are very much part of listening. They show attention and interest. They allow for the further exploration of certain points. They permit the clarification of any misunderstanding. They enable the speaker to elaborate on points which seem to be of interest to the listener. They can be used to check up on things.” (p.72)

MORE DETAILS“You may ask for more details around a point which particularly interests you. …This shows interest and attention and allows you to get far more value from your listening.
The speaker may be trying to make a point and has no way of knowing which part of his or her discourse is of most interest to his audience. It is up to the listeners to ask questions to get more details around the more interesting points.” (p.73)

As you listen there are always at least two focuses.
The person speaking may be trying to make a point, to express an opinion or to create one side of an argument. You need to pay attention to this. What is the speaker trying to achieve? How well is the speaker achieving this? Do you agree with the speaker’s main point? Is the speaker convincing?
Respect for the speaker means that you are listening to what the speaker is ‘trying to do’.
At the same time there is a second focus.
Let us say you are driving along a road and you want to get to town ‘B’. As you drive along you pass through a quaint village or you drive by an historic site. You stop to explore what has caught your interest.
So as you listen, the second focus is concerned with matters of interest that arise in what you hear but have little direct relevance to the case the speaker is trying to make. …The trick is to keep both focuses in mind if you are to get full value from listening. Suppose you only focus on the main argument being made. At the end you find you do not agree with the argument. If you have only focused [-p.75] on the argument you have gained very little. However, if you have also focused on the ‘interest content’ of what has been said, you may have learned important new information, alternative perceptions and different experiences.” (pp.74-75)


“Questions are important because they are one of the main means of interaction between people in conversation or in any type of communication.
What would the world be like if we were not allowed to ask questions?
Ask this question to anyone you like. Most people would answer that life would be very difficult. It would be hard to communicate and almost impossible to get what we wanted if other people were involved.
The real answer is that it would make almost no difference at all.
A question is simply a way of directing attention.” (p.77)


“For about two thousand four hundred years we have been satisfied with argument as a way of thinking. The method was designed by the Greek Gang of Three: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
Argument is an excellent method and has served us well. At the same time, as we have seen, it is unsophisticated. Each side makes a ‘case’ and then seeks to defend that case and prove the other ‘case’ to be wrong. It says, in short: ‘I am right and you are wrong.’
In argument the motivation may be high because it is an aggressive motivation. The actual exploration of the subject is low. …a prosecutor in a court of law will not mention points which help the defence case and will certainly not make an effort to find them. The same holds for the defence attorney.
We use argument not because we think it is such a wonderful method – but because we do not know any other method.” (p.89)

Ref: Edward de Bono (c2004) How to Have a Beautiful Mind. Vermilion: London.


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
This entry was posted in early years education, Teaching excellence and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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