What is Active listening?

The current blogpost will be based on the question “what is active listening?”. We will discuss the various aspects of active listening. We will also learn the advantages of using active listening and further discuss the difference between using active listening vs passive listening.

What is active listening?

Active listening is a type of communication skill. In active listening , listening is treated as an intentional and active process rather than a natural and involuntary process. Active Listening suggests participating actively in the listening process rather than just acting and behaving like an audience who tend to hear things passively.

Active listening demands the listener to engage the speaker, encourage the speaker to share more and put effort to understand the listener more.

Active listening is based on the following :

  • Show that you are listening

In active listening a listener’s shows that they are listening by putting away mental and environmental distractions and focusing on the body language, non verbal cues and verbal cues.

Distractions are avoided during active listening by maintaining eye contact with the speaker. The listeners in active listening minimize their use of mobile during  the conversation or gazing here and there while they are being spoken to. 

Often the distractions are not environmental, rather they are our own mental processes that distract us. Mental distractions include our own thoughts and judgements about the speaker or about the topic of conversations. Due to mental distractions there is a high chance that we tend to sabotage the purpose of communication or jump to biased conclusions.

  • Encourage the speaker to share more

In active listening the listener tends to encourage and appreciate the speaker to share more. The listener uses strategies like asking open ended questions and using reflection strategy. 

Asking open ended questions helps the listener to portray that he is actively involved in the communication process and would want to know more details to gain a deeper insight. 

Using reflection technique, the listener summarizes the most relevant and important points that he has listened to and clear any ambiguities. Reflection also includes using the affective component and focusing on the emotional aspects along the verbal content of the message delivered.

  • Strive to understand 

Being an active and intentional process, active listening involves being mindfully present and open minded. 

Being mindfully present during the conversation process involves being a keen observer of the body language, verbal tone, facial expressions and verbal content to understand the intent of the speaker during a conversation. 

Open mindedness is a key to active listening. Being in a receptive state of mind and avoiding to focus on any preconceived biases or presumed judgments helps to purely understand the message of the speaker and the underlying perspective of the speaker.

What are the differences between active and passive listening?

The advantages of active listening over passive listening are as follows :

  • In active listening you tend to listen more as compared to passive listening where you interrupt often and try to dominate the conversation.
  • In active listening you give the speaker opportunity to complete his viewpoint whereas in passive listening you interrupt and distract the speaker often.
  • In active listening you ask open ended questions whereas in passive listening you ask close ended questions
  • In active listening you remain attentive to what is being said whereas in passive listening you get distracted and shift your focus from the speaker.
  • In active listening you are more focused to have a problem solving attitude while knowing the perspective of the speaker whereas in passive listening you are more biased and argumentative
  • In active listening you listen for both the emotions and content whereas in passive listening you are only drawn passively towards the content .

What are the key components of active listening?

The key components of active listening are :

  • Paraphrasing
  • Clarifying
  • Reflecting
  • Summarizing
  • Providing feedback
  • Responding appropriately

Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is based on rephrasing the words of the message conveyed by the speaker in a way that does not change the meaning of the conveyed message. It is done to test the listener’s understanding of the speaker’s message. It is also an opportunity for the speaker to focus on his or her own thoughts while listening to his own message in a different set of words. 

Paraphrasing in active listening also allows the speaker to see that the listener is spying attention to the speaker and is trying to understand the speaker’s concern actively.

Clarifying

The clarifying technique in active listening involves clarifying the understanding of the listener and explaining any underlying ambiguities. Clarifying technique gives the speaker opportunity to elaborate on his intent behind the message.

Through clarifying technique in active listening the unclear aspects in the conversations are resolved that may act as barriers to effective communication.

Reflecting

Reflecting technique in active listening involves relaying back to the speaker what was said by the speaker in order to convey that his feelings and emotions are being respected and considered during the conversation.

Through reflecting technique a deeper insight is gained into the communication process that helps with gaining better knowledge and improving comprehension. 

Summarizing

The summarizing technique in active listening involves identifying, connecting and integrating the key ideas of the message being communicated by the speaker. It helps the people involved in the communication process to identify what is important in the communication related to the purpose of the communication.

Providing feedback

Providing active feedback that is unbiased is a key to active listening. It involves asking relevant questions and using the techniques of paraphrasing, reflection, summarizing and clarifying to remain involved in the communication process actively.

Responding appropriately

In active listening the speaker needs to assert their opinion in a respectful way that does not tend to humiliate or put down the speaker . the listener is equally respectful to the difference of opinion between the speaker’s view and the listener’s beliefs. 

The listener responds while being aware of not challenging the speaker or being offensive towards the speaker.

What are the advantages of active listening?

Following are the advantages of active listening:

  • Active listening helps to communicate effectively
  • Active listening builds strong relationships both formally and informally
  • A mutual sense of trust, care and respect is promoted through active listening
  • Active listening makes it easy to show empathy and regard for the speaker
  • Active listening enables the speaker feel understood and well attended
  • Active listening strengthens our ability to influence and persuade others

Conclusion

The current blogpost was based on the question “what is active listening?”. We discussed the difference between active listening and passive listening. We also learned the advantages of using active listening and the various components of active listening that need to be focused while using active listening.

Frequently asked questions : active listening pdf

What is the importance of active listening?

Active listening is a core factor behind effective and essential communication, both in general and in didactic communication. Through active listening we improve the level of comprehension and build a better connection between the listener and the speaker.

How do you become an active listener ?

We can become active listener through the following steps :

  1. Paying  Attention
  2. Show that you are listening through using your body language
  3. Provide feedback actively and effectively
  4. Defer judgement and biases
  5. Respond appropriately

What is meant by active listening?

Active listening is a way of intentionally and actively listening to the other person to improve the level of connection and comprehension between the listener and the speaker. Active listening helps individuals to develop an environment of mutual trust, respect and care.

What are the 3 A’s of active listening?

Following are the 3 A’s of active listening :

  • Attitude
  • Attention
  • Adjustment.

Citations

https://www.bumc.bu.edu/facdev-medicine/files/2016/10/Active-Listening-Handout.pdf

https://www.adelaide.edu.au/writingcentre/sites/default/files/docs/learningguide-activelistening.pdf

https://wholebeinginstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/Rogers_Farson_Active-Listening.pdf

https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/1082419/Active_listening.pdf

https://open.umich.edu/sites/default/files/downloads/listening-skills.pdf

https://www.mcgill.ca/engage/files/engage/active_listening_and_effective_questioning.pdf

https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/active-listening.pdf