Active Listening

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is a process where the listener responds in a conversational manner back to the speaker. They place their attention on the speaker and they feed back their perceptions of the speaker's feelings and the content of what they said. When you are actively listening, you're thinking about what the person is telling you and what their point of view is that they are trying to get across. Please watch this video about how to improve your listening skills.

How To Improve Your Listening Skills (4:54)

The three the main techniques for active listening are paraphrasing, clarifying and summarizing.

  • Paraphrasing is restating the speaker's thought, in your own words. For instance, "I think you're saying that..." or "It sounds like you're saying ...". This is so they know you understand, or don't understand, in which case they can clarify for you.
  • Clarifying involves asking questions to make sure that you understand. For example, "Can you give me an example of that?" or "You just said that such and such is important, can you help me understand what that means to you?" 
  • Summarizing is accurately and briefly summarizing the intent of their message. For instance, "I think the main ideas here are ...".

Active Listening Guidelines

  • Put the focus of attention on the speaker
  • Paraphrase and clarify
  • Summarize
  • Don't discuss your own reactions or give well-intentioned comments like,"I know what you mean.", "Oh yeah, that same thing happened to me.", or "I don't agree because... " This is not a time to articulate your own view points or turn the attention back to yourself.
  • Don't ignore the speaker's feelings
  • Don't pretend that you understand their meaning if you don't. It's perfectly fine to ask for clarification. For example, "What did you mean by...?" or "Can you tell me more about...?"
  • Don't ignore the non-verbal content. People's body language, facial expressions, gestures, pitch, tone, can give you clues about what they are thinking and feeling.
  • Don't think about what you will say next. (Probably the hardest guideline to follow) It seems it is our default response when we are getting into a rather heated conversation with somebody, we're just holding our breath until we can get a chance to insert our opinion, and that is the opposite of