Speech Study Guide

Though many individuals seem to think stereotyping is no longer a problem, it is evident that it is still prevalent, albeit subtler. Stereotyping involves making ill-founded generalizations about a specific group of people based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or age. This practice represents a problem in many realms of life. Scholars have linked it to prejudice and discrimination, lower self-esteem, adverse health outcomes, and impaired performance among the targets of stereotyping. No matter the basis, whether it be from direct experience, family members’ expressed views and attitudes, or various media portrayals, the practice of stereotyping unfairly categorizes and stigmatizes people. It can also greatly interfere with an audience’s ability to listen effectively. If an audience member is preoccupied with a speaker’s gender, race, age, or other characteristic they are not fully focusing on the information and ideas being communicated. Stereotyping is invariably misleading and should be avoided at all possible costs. 7.7 Listener Responsibility Though it may seem odd to think about, speakers and listeners have responsibilities to each other. Effective active listening begins with attending , which is the process of intentionally perceiving and focusing on a message. Poor listeners have difficulty exercising control over what they attend to, often letting their mind drift to thoughts unrelated to the topic. A reason for poor attendance is that the human brain can process between four hundred and eight hundred words per minute, but can only speak between one hundred twenty and one hundred fifty words per minute. The brain tries to assume what the speaker is going to say before they say it, and thus the brain has time to wander. Not only is there an opportunity for the mind to wander in the gap between speaking rates and processing rates, but research suggests that the average adult attention span is approximately twenty minutes or less. To really become an effective listener, an individual can train themselves how to focus or attend to what people are saying, regardless of the potential distractions. There are four techniques to help train oneself: • Get physically ready to listen. Good listeners create an environment that reduces potential distractions and adopt a listening posture. • Resist mental distractions. Work consciously to block out wandering thoughts while listening to a speech or webcast that might come from a visual distraction or physical distraction. • Hear the speaker out. Often listeners stop listening because they disagree with something the speaker says, because a listener anticipates what the speaker is going to say, or because the listener becomes offended by an example or word the speaker uses. • Find personal relevance. Sometimes speakers articulate relevance for listeners but other times it can be discovered independently by consciously considering how one might benefit from learning the information to improve some aspect of life. Speakers also try to understand what they hear. Understanding is accurately interpreting a message. Sometimes a listener may not fully understand a speaker’s message because the speaker uses words that are not in the audience’s vocabulary or discusses complex technical concepts that are new to listeners. There are four strategies to help a listener understand a speaker’s message:


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