Active Listening skills Handout (PDF)

The present blogspot will be based on active listening as an effective strategy in communication. We will discuss what is active listening, what are the advantages of active listening, how active listening is applied across various platforms.

What is active listening?

Active listening is a soft skill that is the basic technique for effective communication. Active listening is necessary for developing emotional and social health among individuals. 

Active listening seeks to actively listen to the speaker, understand what is being said and make meaning out of the communicated message and the feelings observed in the speaker.

Instead of passively hearing whatever the speaker is saying, the listener intends to actively listen to the communicated message by paying attention with all the senses.

As active listening involves the listening aspect to whatever is being said, the speaker is also interested to physically witness the interest of the listener in whatever the speaker is communicating to him/her. 

Through various verbal and nonverbal behaviors, the listener can depict interest in the content and regard for the feelings of the speaker so that the speaker is confident that whatever he is communicating is not unheard.

Active listening is not a random act. It needs conscious effort and the listener needs to get engaged in various techniques to apply active listening in the communication process.

Active listening is a soft skill that is necessary and a crucial part of one’s adaptive functioning. It plays a vital role in developing interpersonal and intrapersonal skills among the individuals. 

Active listening also enhances psychological well-being among the individual’s as it is important in making a person develop emotionally and socially. 

Active listening is an important aspect of an individual’s communication style. In order to effectively and efficiently communicate your message to another person, an individual needs to be an active listener first.

Active listening skills  require individuals to avoid whatever is going on in their head and rather focus purely on whatever is being communicated to them and draw inferences on whatever is being communicated only.

Active listening enables an individual to be unbiased and nonjudgmental while providing a solution to the speaker of whatever he is concerned for.

Active listening tips

Following are some of the tips related to active listening :

  • Avoid to interrupt when a speaker is communicating anything
  • Try not to distract the speaker with any irrelevant thing
  • Don’t look here and there when you are being spoken to
  • Avoid assuming what the speaker will say
  • Avoid jumping to the conclusions
  • Avoid challenging the thoughts and feelings of the speaker
  • Avoid shoulds and musts during active listening
  • Donot sit with a relaxed back attitude
  • Listen being neutral

How is active listening different from hearing?

Active listening is different from hearing in the following ways:

  • Active listening is focused whereas hearing is accidental
  • Listening is voluntary whereas hearing is involuntary
  • Hearing is unintentional where as listening is unintentional
  • Active listening is focused and purposeful whereas hearing has distractions
  • Active listening is a conscious effort through verbal and nonverbal sensory responses whereas hearing just involves auditory senses.

Active listening techniques

The active listening techniques are majorly divided into:

  • Nonverbal techniques
  • Verbal techniques

The nonverbal techniques for active listening

The nonverbal techniques for active listening include:

  • Smile
  • Eyecontact
  • Posture
  • Distractions
  • Speech


A pleasant smile is an indirect cue for the speaker that welcomes them to share their feelings and express their content. Small smiles can also be used by the listener to give the message to the speaker that they are being heard. Smiles affirm that the speaker is being heard and listened to effectively.


Eye contacts are a source of undivided and concentrated attention to the speaker. Appropriate eye contact during the conversation conveys to the speaker that he is being focused at all ears.


Posture is another phenomenon related to non verba signs of active listening. It calls for sitting square with the listener and leaning forward a bit to attend well to whatever is being communicated by the speaker.


Avoiding being fidgety, clumsy or in a hurry by defusing any types of mental or environmental distractions to focus well on the listener is a key to active listening.


The tone and pace of speech matters a lot during the conversation for active listening. Maintaining a firm tone without using jargons and providing positive affirmations all convey to the speaker that they are being listened to effectively.

The verbal signs of  active listening

The verbal signs of  active listening are as follows:

  • Remembering
  • Questioning
  • Clarification
  • Reflection
  • Paraphrasing
  • Trust
  • Spontaneity
  • Paraphrasing
  • Summary
  • Unbiased and non judgmental
  • Empathy
  • Wait time


Often we tend to forget what we don’t pay attention to. Active listening calls for a deliberate and intentional effort to memorize the shared information and the content and feelings of the speaker related to the information.


Questioning is a good way to show your interest in the speaker’s content during active listening. However the time and place of question during a conversation relay matters.

Questions just for the sake of asking questions tend to disturb the flow of conversation. 

Similarly using a closed ended question in place of an open ended question tends to spoil the spontaneity of the conversation and disrupts the flow of conversation.


Clarification during the active listening process is a technique that aims the listener to clarify any misunderstandings or fill in any loop holes that might destroy the purpose of communication. 

Through clarification,the listener is better able to attend to the content of the message and is able to listen to the verbal and non verbal content of the message with full concentration and clarity.


Reflecting on the client’s feelings is necessary for active listening. Through reflection, the speaker communicates what he has gathered through the communicated information about the speaker’s feelings and emotions.

Reflection of feelings communicates to the speaker that the message being conveyed is being heard in its full essence and the communication is serving its purpose.


Paraphrasing is based on rephrasing or restating the content of the communicated message to better understand and drill deep into the communicated message.


Building an environment of mutual trust and respect is essential for active listening. This helps the speaker to be at ease while talking to the listener and the listener is easily available with full concentration to pay attention to whatever is being said consciously.


Inorder to continue the conversation with spontaneity and avoid any roadblocks, it is recommended that the listener does not interrupt the speaker while the speaker is conveying the  message and let the speaker continue to say with his own pace whatever he needs to talk about.

Disturbing the spontaneity of the conversation and interrupting the speakers might convey to the speaker that whatever they are sharing is not significant to the listener.


Summarizing the conversations involves conveying the listener’s perception of the communicated back to the speaker. In this way, the listener is able to get to the true meaning of the communicated message without assuming about it and jumping to a conclusion.

Unbiased and non judgmental

Being unbiased and non judgmental while listening is a key to active listening. The technique of being unbiased and noon judgemental enables the listener to be a neutral listener and to listen  to the exact message being communicated.

The listener needs to get out of the shoulds and musts during a conversation and listen openly to continue effective communication.


Empathy during active listening involves being there for the speaker. Empathy involves being in the speaker’s shoes and listening to their all pleasant and unpleasant feelings and the content. Without agreeing to it and without sympathizing the listener attends the speaker and accepts their opinions and concerns as being theirs only.

Wait time

The wait time in active listening is related to waiting for an optimum amount of time for the speaker to finish up whatever he has been communicating. It involves not blurting out your views and opinions in small pauses during the conversation rather letting the speaker finish whatever he has to say and then convey your concerns at the end.

Barriers to active listening

Barriers to active listening are the various factors that are roadblock to active listening. The barriers to active listening disrupt the conversation process. These include:

  • Noise
  • Attention span
  • Receiver biases
  • Listening apprehensions


Noise is a vital factor that hinders active listening. Noise can be on the side of the listener or the speaker. Noise can be from the various environmental factors or situational scenarios or it could be a result of psychological noise. 

The psychological noise is related to any type of mental preoccupation that keeps the listener from getting the communicated message in its full intent.

Attention span

A low attention span, difficulty focusing and low concentration is related to a hindrance in active listening. Attention span helps to keep the mind on the communicated message. 

A low attention span makes it difficult for the listener to attend to and focus on the communication process.

Receiver biases

If a receiver is biased, critical or judgmental of the speaker’s thoughts or actions in any way then the active listening process can not be achieved. 

Being biased is a roadblock to active listening as the listener tends to listen with a pre assumption about the speaker or the message in itself.

Listening apprehensions

Listening apprehensions are pre assumptions based on cognitive distortions of the listener. These involve making mental assumptions about the message that is being conveyed and jumping to conclusions. Hence the listener tends to get distracted or mentaly withdraw from the conversation instead of paying attention to it.


The current blogspot focused on active listening as an essential key for effective communication. We learned about the various aspects related to active listening techniques. We discussed the verbal and non verbal techniques that are a significant factor in active listening. We also learned that noise, situational factors, low attention span and receiver biases hinder the process of active listening.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs): Active listening

What are the 3 A’s of active listening?

The 3 A’s of active listening are:


What are the four examples of active listening?

The four examples of active listening are :

Non judgementals
Being empathetic
Reflecting feelings

What are the 7 active listening skills?

The 7 active listening skills are :

Being focused
Maintaining eye contact
Summarizing the message
Asking probing questions
Asking open ended questions
Avoiding assumptions
Being open minded