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IVs not OS simple Q task as it seems, but it has the power to enrich your life By THEODORE IRWIN A T A MIDWEST industHal plant one morning, a foreman gathered six workers around him to instruct them on how to use a new forge safely. They all seemed to pay close attention as he told them to hang hot grappling irons on one wall and cool irons on another. Fifteen minutes later, one of the men stepped up to the wrong wall, grasped a hot iron and screamed with pain as the iron seared his flesh. The injury proved so serious that he almost lost the use of his hand—a tragic price to pay for poor listening. Speech experts who have made extensive studies of our listening habits find that most of us are half-listeners. At the University of Minnesota, a recent survey by Dr. Ralph G. Nichols revealed that the average person recalls only about half of what he has heard after a speaker has finished. Yet in this age of the telephone, meetings, radio, and television, we must often listen far more than we speak, read, or write. Everyone thinks he listens when he hears— but you can hear words without understanding them or retaining the ideas expressed. Effective listening, however, which means more than just letting sound waves enter your ears, is a skill and an art which can be learned and improved. The importance of good listening is gradually being recognized. Today, courses in listening are being given at more than 25 colleges and universities, as well as at elementary and high schools in Nashville, Tenn.; Phoenix, Ariz.; throughout North Dakota; and elsewhere. Business, industry, and government, traditionally fearful of costly snafus caused by oral communication, lean toward the proliferating written memo—"Don't Say It! Write It!"— which has piled paperwork into a tangle of red tape. Now several large companies include listening courses in their regular personnel training programs. So do some Federal agencies and units of our military services. But there are steps you can take on your own to correct bad listening habits. Here are the main faults observed by speech specialists and how you can overcome them: 1. When hearing a long talk or lecture, we tend to slip into "tangent thinking." The average person talks at a speed of 120-180 words a minute. We think about four times as fast, so we have plenty of time for freewheeling as we listen. But by the time our attention is jolted back to what's being' said, the speaker has outdistanced us and we've lost some of his ideas. Instead, use that extra thinking time to review what the speaker has said and to check it with what you know. Listen between the lines to "nonverbal communication"—there may be significance in his gestures, facial expressions, or the way he raises his voice. 2. Many people talk too much, listen too little. This often happens at conferences and parties. Humorist Robert Benchley once circulated around a talky party, saying: "Tonight it may snow if the whistle stops." Few of those present were aware he was uttering nonsense. A good conversation, conference, or family gathering should encourage as much listening as talking. Vice President Lyndon Johnson has a sign in his office which reads: "You ain't learnin' nothin' when you're talking." 3. Hearing a speech or lecture, we may fall into the habit of listening only for facts, allowing the central ideas to escape. Listen for the main thought, and you'll be amazed how well you can remember the supporting details. Pick out the theme from the topic sentence—usually after the introduction—then connect examples cited, analogies, and anecdotes. This makes it easier for you to follow a long talk. 4. During a conversation or meeting we're apt to let a sound or other intrusion take our attention away long enough to miss important words. Try to blot out distractions; interrupt only to clarify a point. To concentrate better. look at the speaker directly. Maintain this "eye contact" to indicate that you're_deeply interested. Tune in on personal pronouns—"we," "you," "us"—that serve as cues for your own involvement. When you're given verbal instructions or directions, repeat them to yourself. 5« Our emotions are inclined to deafen us. When a speaker drops an incendiary word or phrase—such as "mother-in-law," "landlord," "sissy," or "fortuneteller"—which arouses our bias or prejudice, we tune out like a henpecked husband who turns off his hearing aid. A good listener is open-minded, receptive to fresh ideas. Check your instinct to seal your ears by asking questions that will make it easier to absorb what you hear, even if the opinion clashes with your own views. 6. Too often our listening is influenced by a person's manner of speech or appearance—a rumpled suit, foreign accent, or unusual hairdo. In effect we tell ourselves that "anyone who looks or talks like that can't be saying much." One authority advises: "Concentrate on what is being said, not on who is saying it." 7. When you suspect the speaker or his topic will be dull, too deep, or technical, you may shut your mind to his words and fake attention. This frequently happens to students faced with an instructor who doesn't talk as smoothly as a stand-up comic. Give the speaker a chance to warm up; get what benefit you can from his talk; ask questions about whatever you don't understand. To keep alert and develop your listening ability, ask yourself: "Is he saying something new that I should know?" Even a boring person generally has an idea or two to offer, so search for and select worthwhile ideas you can use. "There are no uninteresting subjects, only uninterested listeners," Dr. Nichols reminds us. Careful listening takes a little conscious ef- foi^t and demands active participation. But once you acquire the knack, you'll probably find you can listen your way to more congeniality on your job, closer friendships, and better relations with your family. COVER: There's no mistaking the season, as a pert snow romper prepares to biiss her Mr. Snowman—complete with carrot mouth. Donato Leo photographed the scene. / January 7,1962 lEONAItO S. OAVIOOW Pre»ident and PublUher WAITER C. DREYFUS I'lrr Prexidevt PATRICK E. OtOURKE Adrcrtixing Director MORTON FRANK Director of Publisher Relatioru Send oil advertising communications to Family Weekly. 153 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago I, III. JIUdrsss all communications about editorial features to Fomily Weekly, 60 E. 56th St.. Now York 22, N. Y. Board of Editors ERNBT V. HEYN Editor-in^hief BEN KARTMAN Executive Editor ROBERT FITZGIBBON Managing Editor MARGARH BEU Feature Editor PHIUIP OYKSTRA Art Director MEIANIE DE PROFT Food Editor Rosolyn Abrevoya, John Hochmann, Jerry Klein, Hal London, Jack Ryan; Peer i. Oppenheimer, Hollywood. JM^ FAMIIY WEEKIY MAGAZINE, INC, 153 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 1, III. All rights re»erv«l.