We were given two ears but only one mouth.
This is because God knew that listening was twice as hard as talking.

People need to practice and acquire skills to be good listeners, because a speaker cannot throw you information in the same manner that a dart player tosses a dart at a passive dartboard. Information is an intangible substance that must be sent by the speaker and received by an active listener.

Many people are familiar with the scene of the child standing in front of dad, just bursting to tell him what happened in school that day. Unfortunately, dad has the paper in front of his face and even when he drops the paper down half-way, it is visibly apparent that he is not really listening.
A student solved the problem of getting dad to listen from behind his protective paper wall. Her solution was to say, "Move your face, dad, when I'm talking to you.'' This simple solution will force even the poorest listener to adopt effective listening skills because it captures the essence of good listening.

The first skill that you can practice to be a good listener is to act like a good listener. We have spent a lot of our modern lives working at tuning out all of the information that is thrust at us. It therefore becomes important to change our physical body language from that of a deflector to that of a receiver, much like a satellite dish. Our faces contain most of the receptive equipment in our bodies, so it is only natural that we should tilt our faces towards the channel of information.
A second skill is to use the other bodily receptors besides your ears. You can be a better listener when you look at the other person. Your eyes pick up the non-verbal signals that all people send out when they are speaking. By looking at the speaker, your eyes will also complete the eye contact that speakers are trying to make. A speaker will work harder at sending out the information when they see a receptive audience in attendance. Your eyes help complete the communication circuit that must be established between speaker and listener.

When you have established eye and face contact with your speaker, you must then react to the speaker by sending out non-verbal signals. Your face must move and give the range of emotions that indicate whether you are following what the speaker has to say. By moving your face to the information, you can better concentrate on what the person is saying. Your face must become an active and contoured catcher of information.

It is extremely difficult to receive information when your mouth is moving information out at the same time. A good listener will stop talking and use receptive language instead. Use the I see . . . un hunh . . . oh really words and phrases that follow and encourage your speaker's train of thought. This forces you to react to the ideas presented, rather than the person. You can then move to asking questions, instead of giving your opinion on the information being presented. It is a true listening skill to use your mouth as a moving receptor of information rather than a broadcaster.

A final skill is to move your mind to concentrate on what the speaker is saying. You cannot fully hear their point of view or process information when you argue mentally or judge what they are saying before they have completed. An open mind is a mind that is receiving and listening to information.

If you really want to listen, you will act like a good listener. Good listeners are good catchers because they give their speakers a target and then move that target to capture the information that is being sent. When good listeners aren't understanding their speakers, they will send signals to the speaker about what they expect next, or how the speaker can change the speed of information delivery to suit the listener. Above all, a good listener involves all of their face to be an active moving listener.

If you are really listening intently, you should feel tired after your speaker has finished. Effective listening is an active rather than a passive activity.
When you find yourself drifting away during a listening session, change your body position and concentrate on using one of the above skills. Once one of the skills is being used, the other active skills will come into place as well.
Your body position defines whether you will have the chance of being a good listener or a good deflector. Good listeners are like poor boxers: they lead with their faces.
Meaning cannot just be transmitted as a tangible substance by the speaker. It must also be stimulated or aroused in the receiver. The receiver must therefore be an active participant for the cycle of communication to be complete.

This page is from the book CASAA Student Activity Sourcebook. Retrieved Oct 1, 2010 from
Last modified: Thursday, 2 June 2011, 2:05 PM