Improspectives

Improv skills lead to success

Discriminative Listening

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I’ve reached the end of my series on the types of listening John Kline identifies in his book Listening Effectively. Kline was writing for U.S. Air Force officers, but his analysis works just as well in the business and improv arenas.

Kline’s final type of listening is discriminative listening. In this case, “discriminative” means to listen with the goal of discovering meaning through sensitivity to body language, tone, pace, and other aspects of speech apart from the words used. Discriminative listening is hardest for individuals who have difficulty recognizing body language. The stereotypical computer nerd is notoriously insensitive to body language and nuance, so much so that sarcasm and irony are lost on them. Body language and vocal nuance vary so much among regions, let along among individuals, it’s a wonder we can understand anything but the most basic statements in our native language.

Body language in business can be a tricky thing. Most individuals learn to control and mask their body language as they progress up the corporate ladder, so you can find yourself latching onto slight indications that have no connection to their true thoughts. It’s also possible to lie using body language, so be aware you might not be getting the whole truth.

Improvisers can’t afford to be misleading — we must communicate clearly and efficiently, especially when we’re being sarcastic or ironic. Doing so helps our fellow performers understand our intent and, just as importantly, shows the audience what we mean. The fourth wall is a powerful barrier to effective communication in scripted theatre, much more so when you’re improvising.

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Written by curtisfrye

July 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm

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