Rules to Follow When Listening

Rules to Follow When Listening


Discuss the qualities of an active listener

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  • Presenters deserve your attention, courtesy, and open-mindedness if you are to expect the same of others once you get up to present.

  • Be courteous by silencing your cell phone or other gadgets, refraining from extraneous noise, and looking at the presenter while they speak. If you're taking notes, make sure you're doing so in an unobtrusive way.

  • Have an open mind about what material is presented to you. You may not agree, but the presenter still deserves your attention and courtesy.

Rules to Follow When Listening

You may not always be the speech presenter or speaker. Many times, you'll be in the audience yourself. Active listening is a skill that can make you a more effective speaker in the long run.

Active Listening

The art of active listening is more than just hearing what the speaker has to say: it's about being an engaged, attentive listener able to paraphrase what has already been said.


Being an active listener not only makes you a more engaged audience member but, quite simply, it's polite. If you expect people to pay attention to your words when it's your turn to speak, they expect the same from you. There are a number of other courteous behaviors that an active listener should practice:

  • Look at the presenter.
  • Do not text or chat on your phone while they speak.
  • Remain quiet.
  • If taking notes, either on paper or via a laptop or tablet, do so unobtrusively.


Active listening refers to the practice of not just hearing someone, but really listening and paying attention to what they have to say. Intrinsic to active listening is the ability to feed back what has been said to the speaker, often in the form of paraphrasing. As an audience member, you might not have the opportunity to actually verbalize these feedback in the moment; however, a true active listener is able to summarize at the completion of the speech.


You may not necessarily agree with everything that is being said. It's important to come to the presentation with an open mind—that is, to at least listen with respect and courtesy to ideas that may be in conflict with your own personal beliefs and values. Again, if you expect others to be open and receptive to your ideas, you must extend that same courtesy to others.

Terms to Know
  • active listening

    the process of attending carefully to what a speaker is saying, involving such techniques as accurately paraphrasing the speaker's remarks

  • open-minded

    willing to consider new and different ideas or opinions