What is Active Listening

Active listening is a communication approach that requires the listener to feed back what he hears to the speaker, by means of re-stating or even paraphrasing what he has heard in his own words, to ensure what he has heard and moreover, to confirm the understanding of both sides.

The ability to listen actively shows truthfulness, which nothing is being assumed or overlooked. Normally, it improves personal interactions, reduces misunderstanding and issues, strengthens cooperation, and builds understanding. It is proactive, accountable and professional.

What is Active Listening

When communicating, people often "wait to speak" rather than 'hear' attentively. They may be also distracted. Active listening is a organized way of listening and answering others, concentrating attention on the "function" of communicating objectively rather than concentrating on "forms," passive expression or subjectivity.


Active Listening Definition

Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another individual which enhances mutual understanding. Usually when individuals talk to one another, they don't listen attentively. They are generally distracted, half listening, half thinking about something different. When people are involved in a conflict, they are usually busy formulating a response to what has been said. They presume that they have heard what their opponent says often times before, so instead of focusing, they concentrate on how they can react to win the argument.

Active listening is a structured kind of listening and responding that concentrates the attention on the speaker. The listener must make sure to attend to the speaker completely, and then repeats, in the listeners own words, what they think the speaker has stated. The listener doesn't have to agree with the speaker, he or she must simply state whatever they think the speaker said. This permits the speaker to find out whether the listener really understood. If the listener did not, the speaker can explain some more.

Active Listening Examples

Below you'll find 7 different skills which help people be much better active listeners. There is no need to become skilled at each of these skills to become good active listener, but the more you do, the better you'll be. If you just use 3 or 4 of these skills, you will find yourself listening and hearing really what another person is saying to you.

1. Restating: To show you are listening, repeat once in awhile what you think the person said - not by parroting, but by paraphrasing whatever you heard in your own words. For example, "Let's see if I'm clear about this."

2. Summarizing: Gather the important points and pieces of the problem to check understanding - for example, "So it sounds to me as if . . ." Or perhaps, "Is that it?"

3. Minimal encouragers: Make use of brief, positive requests to keep the conversation going and show you are listening - for example, "umm-hmmm," "Oh?" "I understand," "Then?" "And?"

4. Reflecting: Rather than repeating, reflect the speaker's words in terms of feelings - for example, "This seems really important for you."

5. Probing: Seek advice to attract the person out and get deeper and much more meaningful information - for example, "What do you think would happen if you.?"

6. Validation: Acknowledge the individual's problems, issues, and feelings. Listen freely along with empathy, and respond in an interested way - for example, "I appreciate your willingness to speak about this kind of difficult issue."

7. Consequences: The main feedback may involve discussing the possible consequences of inaction. Take your hints from exactly what the person is saying - for example, "What happened the last time you stopped taking the medicine your physician prescribed?

Active Listening exercises

This exercise is made to enable you to understand the dynamics of active listening in discussions and also to develop active listening skills. Instructions:

For each of the 4 vignettes presented below, teams or pupils working individually will compose three statements that demonstrate active listening. Specifically, one statement will show that you simply show empathy for the situation; the second asks for clarification and detail in a nonjudgmental way; the third statement will provide nonevaluative suggestions to the speaker.

Listed below are the three types of responses:
Showing empathy - Acknowledge feelings. Often it sounds like the speaker wants you to agree with him/her but, in fact, they mainly want you to understand how they feel. "Acknowledging feelings" involves taking in their statements, but studying the "whole message" such as body language, tone of voice, and level of arousal, and looking to determine what emotion they are conveying. Then you let them understand that you realize they are feeling that emotion by simply acknowledging it in a sentence.

Asking for clarification and fine detail while retaining your judgment and own opinions. This conveys that you are building a good effort to understand and not just trying to push your opinions onto them.

Providing non-evaluative feedback - feeding back the content you heard. This enables the speaker to find out if he/she really got the content across to you and assist in preventing difficult miscommunication.