It's easy to be turned off by a speaker's style and then tune them out. This is where the learned art of listening will keep you from missing out on helpful information.
Discipline yourself to concentrate by finding something worthwhile to key into. The speaker may be putting you to sleep by a slow or irritating pace or the conclusions reached may not appear well formulated, but don't deny yourself the opportunity to learn an opposing point of view that may help you in later discussions.
Concentrate on what is being said, not on how it is being delivered. Also, when a speaker uses too many of the latest fad words and phrases you can become annoyed and distracted. Try not to let these irritations stop you from hearing them out. Train yourself to quickly identify which words send off alarms inside you and quickly turn off the alarm system that triggers negative emotions inside you. By doing so you'll be able to hear what's being said much more clearly.
While listening be aware of what's not being said too. Just as you can read between the lines, you can also learn to "hear" between the lines. Some people avoid conflict at all cost so they dance around negative issues. If you sense something is beginning to happen you'll want to begin questioning the speaker to help you dig deeper into their real meaning. A "could you explain?" is usually sufficient for clarification.
Watch closely for gestures along with the words being spoken. They too communicate "between the lines". Body language can speak rather loudly if we're tuned into it. Watch eye contact, leaning forward, foot tapping, glancing out the window. Mature listeners give undivided attention to a speaker and you can tell there is noting else on their mind. This makes the speaker feel fully appreciated and understood.
Listening is an art that can be fine tuned with time and attention.
Judy Warmington, Woman Time Management (owner) -- Busy wife, mother of three adult/married children, grandmother of 10 (5 boys and 5 girls!), former high school teacher (M.A. from W.M.U.), Speaker, Author, Radio Personality, and Trainer of Professional Organizers.