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Blog #7: Listen, listen, listen....

Updated: 6 days ago

Do you ever feel like the dog in the picture? How many times have you heard, "Did you hear me? Are you paying attention at all?" Everybody needs to listen. No matter where you are or who you are, we all need to understand what is going on around us. In fact, you're probably listening to a hundred different messages everyday--and aren't even aware of it. You listen to lectures at school, to clients at work, or to directions from family or friends. But, no matter where or when you listen--most people with learning disabilities or dyslexia will have problems with listening at least sometime in their lives. This podcast not only will help you to understand how you listen everyday, but give you tips and tricks how to do it more effectively. Better listening works! Just give it a try......


This is the best definition that I've ever heard for listening: "Listening is receiving language through the ears" (English Club, 2021). Simple, right? However, as anyone knows who's tried to pay attention to someone talking in a crowded restaurant or basketball game, it's a lot more complicated that that.

That's because effective listening--not just hearing sounds--involves a variety of behaviors (Oxford Languages, 2021). For instance, it can be paying attention to or acting on what someone else says. It can be responding to feedback or advice. It can be fulfilling someone's request or answering an important question. It can mean stopping or starting a behavior. In short, listening is a multi-faceted phenomemon inter-woven into every aspect of socialization and the world around you. So, whether you want to or not--you're always listening.


Whenever you're around someone else, you're probably listening. You listen everywhere--at home, at work, at school, and in your community. Perhaps, the key benefit to effective listening is that you truly understand what others are trying to tell you. Other benefits include: helping you to communicate more clearly with others; facilitating trust in all types of relationships; increasing the accuracy of your conversations; learning to identify and solve problems in a variety of situations; finding out new information on different topics; picking up critical information you might have missed earlier; and helping you to build connections with people that you already know or want to know better (The Indeed Team, 2021). So, if you are a good listener, you will be more productive, become a better friend, spouse, or colleague, and achieve overall healthier interpersonal relationships. In addition, effective listening promotes stress management, confidence, rapport, and tension reduction (Winbolt, 2018).

Good listening can help you be a great employee (or employer)--and could definitely get you that promotion you want (Quast, 2016, Root, 2021, Williams, 2020). It can improve your grades significantly at school (, 2020). And perhaps of most importance, it will make life much easier at home or with your family and friends (Price-Mitchell, 2017; Scott, 2021; TIS, 2021).


Here's a few paragraphs to get you thinking about how listening shapes your everyday life:

Scenario #1: Susie is a really fun person to be around. She is the life of the party and always makes everyone laugh. Nobody has a bigger heart or is a kinder person than Susie. However, she also drives people crazy because she can never follow directions. People have learned the hard way that it's just better not to ask Susie to meet them at a restaurant for dinner because she always gets lost. She's late because she just doesn't know where she's going. She almost broke up with her boyfriend because they were trying to put together a new bookcase and bed from Ikea and she kept messing up the directions. Math and science classes are really frustrating for Susie because she frequently get the formulas or directions wrong when doing her assignments. [Dyslexia, non-verbal learning disabilities, auditory memory, organizational skills]

Scenario #2: Bill just can't understand why he never gets promoted at work. He has worked as a salesman for the same company for over 8 years. But he consistently watches new people get promoted over him while he still stays in the same job year after year. He is often disappointed because his colleagues at work don't seem to respect him or trust him to complete projects correctly. He easily gets into arguments with co-workers or his supervisor. In fact, his boss told him during his last performance review that he just doesn't seem to get the big picture and may be demoted if the company is merged with a rival business. Bill's supervisor was especially angry with him because one of the clients accused him of not listening accurately which cost the company a really important account. [Auditory memory and attention problems, social skill issues, not understanding verbal cues, ADHD)

Scenario #3: Jennifer often seems disruptive in school. She either "talks over" someone else when they are speaking or asks the instructor questions about something that was already discussed. As one of her peers said, "I just hate being in class with Jennifer because she never shuts up--and she never listens to anyone else. What is her problem?" Lectures and group work are especially frustrating for Jennifer because she has a hard time paying attention to what others are saying or doing. It seems that she's either talking too little or too much. [ADHD, social skills issues, auditory memory and discrimination problems]

Scenario #4: Ben constantly has problems communicating with his wife. She says he never listens to her and frequently doesn't remember what she says: "I can talk and talk to that man and it just doesn't seem to stick. He never pays attention to what I'm saying! I honestly don't know where his mind is. I ask him to go to the store to get milk and bread and he brings home beer and a pizza. Why doesn't he listen to me?" [Traumatic Brain Injury, ADHD, auditory memory or processing skills, non-verbal learning disabilities, dyslexia]

How does LD/Dyslexia Shape Effective Listening?

Listening in any situation requires effective focus and attention, It also assumes that you will be able to decode any auditory message into symbols that you can understand. But, some people may have to work harder at listening than others. For instance, while there seems to be little research or information specifically written about how LD and dyslexia can influence successful listening, there are some clues worth further exploration. For instance, researchers are looking into the part of the brain called the Planum Temporale, an area where the brain decodes language--a key element of dyslexia. They suspect that small abnormalities in this area can significantly shape not only reading, but also listening skills (Heiervang, et. all, 2000).

These researchers also underscore how listening works. First, you receive auditory language through the ears, then you identify sounds of speech, and finally, you process those sounds into words and sentences. In other words, we use our ears to receive individual sounds (e.g., letters, stress, rhythm and pauses) and we then use our brain to convert these into messages that mean something to us. However, even if your hearing is fine but you can't always process what you hear, you may have major problems listening. This is where the connection between LD and listening can happen everyday. This is also where non-verbal learning disabilities, executive functioning problems, issues with auditory memory or auditory discrimination can keep you from understanding what others are saying to you when you listen to them.

In addition, listening always requires focus and attention. But, what if you have ADHD? There seems to be lots of connections in this area. For instance, as Bertin (2014), explains: "[Listening can be difficult for individuals with ADHD]. . . because of difficulty handling rapidly-spoken language or managing distracting, noisy environments like a party or a busy classroom. Again, this is true even when a child doesn’t have an actual language delay; they have the capacity to understand, but because of ADHD, miss details in both conversation and stories. When listening, they may lose track of conversational threads entirely or miss details, and therefore fail to register vital bits of information." As a result, educators and researchers have concluded that ineffective listening and ADHD may go hand-in-hand.

** Caveat: Please keep in mind that all of the information given above may be impacted--but not caused by LD or dyslexia. Also, if someone has a Traumatic Brain Injury, any type of hearing loss, or speaks English as A Second Language, those can be separate situations with a different set of dynamics.

Tips and Tricks for Effective Listening

Tip #1: Try "really listening".........

Trick #1: HEAR Strategy Pick a topic that is interesting to you and use the HEAR Strategy (Wilson, 2014) to find out what someone else has to say about it. HEAR means: H (Halt whatever you’re doing and concentrate); E (Engage the speaker by a physical gesture, such as a head turn, leaning forward, or eye contact); A (Anticipate what you think the person will say); and R (Replay back in your mind what you just heard so you can remember it later). Here's how to use it. First, come up with a topic (e.g., sports, movies, books, websites, a recent event, hobbies or ideas you share in common, etc.) and ask someone about it. Listen to what they have to say in the way that you always listen to someone else. When you're finished with the conversation, write down as many details about you can remember. Second, talk to someone else about the same topic, but use the HEAR strategy. Again, write down what you just heard and compare it with the first conversation. What's different? What's the same? Did the HEAR strategy make any difference for you? Try this again using the HEAR strategy and a new topic or in a school or work setting.

*Note: While you may not want to do all four steps with each conversation, this is an especially useful strategy to learn new names or places, follow directions, or remember important phrases.

Trick #2: Mystery Dialogue

Here's a great activity to try with a partner. Pick a short you-tube video, a TV show you like, or a section of a familiar movie. You and your partner each get a pen and paper. Now, turn off the sound and record exactly what everyone is saying. Use all of the facial expressions, non-verbals, etc. as hints to get you started. When both of you are done, go back and re-wind it. Turn on the sound and check your accuracy. A good YouTube video to get you started is:

*Note: This is a fun activity to do more than once or with more people.

Tip #3: Two Second Rule

One good rule to truly communicate to someone that you are carefully listening to them is the “Two Second Rule”. Try this by starting a brief conversation with a partner. (See Tip #1 for how to pick a topic.) Each person should NOT reply immediately. Instead, they will listen closely and then count “1 second, 2 seconds…” each time before responding. Although this feels very artificial at first, it will get easier as you both get into the rhythm. Try this with a few different topics or new partners and see if it improves your listening skills. *Note: This is an especially valuable activity for folks who often interrupt others or have auditory memory or discrimination problems or short-term memory loss.

Tip #4: Directions Scramble

Ask 3 people on separate occasions to give you oral directions to a local landmark, school, mall, church, etc. Write down everything you hear. Then, fill out the chart below. Look at the responses from the 3 people. What was similar? What was different? Did you hear the same thing every time? How can this help you get better listening skills to get where you need to go?

Download DOCX • 21KB


I have looked and looked and found very few places--if any--that talk specifically about the critical connections between LD, dyslexia, and listening. There are, however, a few places to get started. Try these to open your eyes to the potential of effective listening skills:


Transition Connection

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