The Labor of Listening
According to Peterson (2012), listening is a difficult task even though it is the activity that people most participate in compared to reading, speaking, or writing. People do not usually afford the task of listening the same intent and focus as they do these other activities. In addition, most of us are not even aware that we are poor listeners making it very difficult to be active listeners. She continues by asserting that students give more privilege to speaking and writing than to actual listening, which is the skill they need the most in the classroom. The activity that the author has designed is meant to help the students recognize the differences in their emotions, attitudes, and behaviors when they are listening for enjoyment or listening for information.
The author believes that after the activity, the students will be able to understand the gravity of how difficult a task it is to actually listen to an individual. They will become aware of the fact that listening requires both mental and physical preparedness and exertion. The purpose of the activity is also to illustrate how much more difficult it is to listen for information than it is to listen for enjoyment. Finally, the students will be enlightened on their individual listening strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully, the students will be able to improve on their listening skills after the activity ends.
The activity involves using the cue ‘Just Listen’ and two stories. One is an enjoyable story while the other is a factual paper with important information. In the first activity, there is little room for distractions while in the second activity an audio tape is used. The story in the second activity has many background noises and the story is hilarious.
According to Peterson (2012), the rationale behind the two-fold activity is to demonstrate how difficult it is to actually listen. People believe that listening is a natural process because they are born with two ears. It is easy to think that listening is as natural as breathing in and out. However, when there is psychological and physiological noise added on to the physical noise that is constantly in the environment, and then hearing becomes a major challenge, even for the best of us. With all this noise surrounding us, people and students in particular are often unaware of the effort needed for someone to actually listen and make sense of what the speaker is saying.
At the end of the activity most students will express that they need to be more aware of trigger phrases and cues such as ‘Just Listen” in other facets of their lives so that they can become better listeners. They will also explain how they mentally and physically strained in order to listen and understand the speaker.
Peterson, S.A. (2012) The Labor of Listening. International Journal of Listening, 26: 87-90.