The Art of Listening

One lecture that stood out to me during the module ‘Researching Social Life’ has been the challenge provided within a lecture in relation to ‘The Art of Listening’. Carrigan (2014) explains the importance through listening in terms of methodology, for quiet patience and high levels of attentiveness is required in order to improve ethics for research. Within my group, we were determined to put this theory into practice through covertly observing the canteen area at Coventry University. Our challenge was to listen to the environment for 10 minutes with our eyes closed, followed by listening for another 10 minutes with our eyes open.

Using this methodology, a number of findings were made and agreed upon within my research group. When we listened to our surroundings with our eyes closed, we struggled to single out conversations due to the large number of people surrounding us. This therefore resulted in us listening more frequently to comments made in a foreign language, for they stood out due to being a factor different to us, who speak only English. Our second finding is that we found it a lot easier to focus on conversations when our eyes were open, for participants’ body language helped us to establish the mood of the conversation. Our final finding was that due to listening to so many different conversations in one area, this turned into background noise, resulting in us therefore unconsciously focusing on non-verbal sound effects, such as cutlery being scraped against plates. This experiment was highly eye opening in relation to the importance of listening, for we learnt how our other senses are highly important for discovery.


Carrigan, M.  (2014) The Art of Listening [online]. N/A: WordPress. Available from: [Accessed 5th April 2017]

Charlotte Clarke


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