Everyone knows that having good listening skills is a key part of communicating with others. Not only are these skills important when having conversations with family and friends, but they are essential in being successful at work, taking in information at appointments, and learning at school. Good listening skills are made up of the following three factors: processing, comprehension, and retention. Processing information is the ability to pay attention to and focus on the information that is being presented; comprehension is the ability to understand the information; retention refers to the ability to remember this information and to retrieve it at a later time. You may struggle with one or all of these abilities, resulting in an overall difficulty with listening skills that can severely impact your communicative interactions. The following are important tips and strategies that can compensate for deficits in listening skills:
1. Give feedback to speakers, and let them know when you have missed some of the information they have provided (e.g. “Can you please repeat that?” “Would you mind explaining that again?”)
2. Try to summarize information to yourself and/or confirm your understanding with the speaker (e.g. “So what you’re saying is…”). Paraphrasing information in your own words will help to ensure that you have understood it correctly. It will also show your conversation partner that you are interested in what they have to say.
3. Try to relate new information to yourself and/or past experiences. Doing this will make the information more meaningful to you, which will make it easier to remember.
4. Prepare a list questions for appointments and/or meetings in advance.Doing so will not only help to ensure that all of your questions are answered, but will help you to put the information you hear into context. This, in turn, helps with processing, comprehension, and retention of information.
5. Write notes on important information. This strategy can be used at school, in business meetings, during personal appointments, and even to help remember a list of tasks that a family member or friend asks you to complete. Writing notes while listening can be difficult if you are not in the habit of doing so; however, with practice it becomes a lot easier. There are several assistive devices/applications that can be used to help with this strategy, some which are described below:
a) LiveScribe Smartpens – these pens allow users to record information they are listening to while they write notes on special paper. Users are then able to return to any part of the recording (by tapping their pen on that point in their notes) to listen back to information they may have initially missed. Notes can also be uploaded onto computers, tablets, smartphones, etc. for easy access and sharing abilities.
b) AudioNote – this is an iPad application that works in a similar way to the LiveScribe pens. Users are able to record information as they type notes. There is also a playback option that allows users to listen back to any point in the recording in order to add more information into their notes. As with the LiveScribe, users can share notes via email, cloud, or dropbox. Users can also organize notes into different files.
By: Shira Silver, Speech-Language Pathologist at Simone Friedman Speech-Language Services