Listening to others and building on arguments

A group of friends debating

Listen carefully when other people are speaking. For example, if someone is delivering a speech or making a point in a group discussion or debate, you need to pay close attention to the points they are making.

It can help to take notes as you listen - write a few words or images down to trigger your memory when it’s your own turn to talk.

You can show that you have been listening by building on people’s arguments. Mention a point someone has made and then add your own experience or ideas. Here are some sentence starters to help you with this:

  • I agree with your point about…. however…
  • I’d like to add to what you said…
  • When you talked about… it made me think…
  • In addition to your comments about…

Remember, you don’t have to agree with everything a speaker says but conversation of any kind is a co-operative activity and it starts to fall down when it becomes confrontational or competitive. The purpose of a discussion is to open up an issue and invite a range of opinions and interpretations. In this case you can challenge a speaker. The following sentence starters should be useful:

  • I understand what you said about… but I think…
  • I disagree with your point about…
  • I don’t think what you said about… is valid. I would suggest…
  • When you said… I wonder whether you had considered…

Listening is as important as speaking, so avoid dominating a discussion, even if you have lots to say, and encourage others to share their views too.