Chapter 2: Audience Analysis and Effective Listening

Effective Listening

The Process of Listening

Before we end this module, let’s briefly discuss your skills as a listener. While much of the focus in a speech class is on the speaker, acting as an audience for other speakers is equally important. Often one of the best resources for understanding your audience is to listen to them. When we discussed observation as a means of getting to know an audience, listening is a primary skill. If you’re in a traditional classroom, you can gain a lot from simply listening to your classmates as they talk in class. What do they value? What are their concerns? Likewise, in an online classroom, you can read discussions and watch your classmates’ speeches to learn more about them. You can then tailor your speech topics, your examples, and your persuasive tactics to fit that particular audience.

Listening is an important skill in all parts of life. As a friend, a mentor, a co-worker, a classmate – listening is the key to those relationships. So how does listening really work? First, understand that there is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is the physiological process of sound waves bouncing off the eardrum. We hear sound whether that be a voice, music, a gunshot, or a crying baby. Your ears cannot distinguish between the different sounds. That’s where listening comes into play. Listening is taking the sound and making sense out of it. That’s when the brain says, “Wow, that was a gunshot. What’s going on? ” Or “Yes, I hear the baby crying

So how does listening differ in those situations? Do we listen differently depending on the source or the context? Definitely! Let’s discuss that in more detail below.


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