What is Active Listening

 In Communication

What is Active Listening?

Listening is one the most important skills that you can possess. Listening well can have a significant impact on your job performance and the quality of your relationships.

Everybody goes about their daily lives having many conversations with family, friends, and co-workers. We don’t always listen as well as we should. Our attention is often diverted by the television, the Internet, cell phones, and other distractions. Although we think we are listening, we really aren’t giving our full attention to the other person.

Active listeningactive listening is when we attempt to understand the speaker’s point-of-view. This includes acknowledging that you are listening and having understood the speaker’s words. This is different from hearing. Hearing is a process where sound enters your eardrum and is passed to your brain. Active listening is an attitude that encourages listening and mutual understanding.

Active listening is more than simply hearing someone speak. Active listening is more than just listening to what someone says. Active listening is when you listen with all your senses and pay attention to what the speaker is saying.

Active listeners use both verbal and nonverbal techniques to keep their attention on the speaker. This will not only improve your focus but it also ensures that the speaker is aware of you being engaged and focused. Instead of thinking about what you might say after the speaker has finished speaking, an active listener attentively considers the words and commits them to memory.

We listen to the whole message and not just the words. Are they happy, angry, excited or sad?

Responding to Feelings

While the content is important (the words spoken), the emotion that people have to convey the message is what really makes it valuable. Listening to what the speaker feels adds another dimension to listening. Is it angry and disgusting? Or are they in love or excited?  All of these feelings can be addressed in your own part of the conversation.

You can have a positive impact on your relationships by actively listening. You can understand another person’s point of view and respond with empathy. You can also ask questions to ensure you fully understand what is being said.

Active listening shifts your attention from your own head to the needs and concerns of your the person you are listening to.

You can make others feel more comfortable sharing their information with you by actively listening. People will feel more comfortable communicating with you if you show that you are able to listen to others. This will open doors to collaboration, speed up work and allow you to start new projects. These are all things that can lead to your success in your career.

Reading Signals

Active listening is when we are aware of all aspects of the conversation, both verbal and non-verbal.

  • What can we learn from the speaker’s facial expressions and hand gestures?
  • Are they able to speak clearly or are they a little shaky?
  • Do they emphasise certain points?
  • Do they have trouble finding the words or mumbling they need?
  • Do they seem to be feeling unheard or uncomfortable?

These cues are picked up by active listeners who adjust their approach to suit the situation. Sometimes, just taking a step back or getting off the phone and talking to the other person will suffice to relieve tension.

How to become an active listener

Ask open-ended questions

Asking questions that reveal you have gathered the essence and guide them to share more information is a good way to show your appreciation. These questions should not be answered simply with “yes” or “no.” What improvements would you like to see in the process over the next six-months?

Ask probing questions

Ask questions that direct the reader to give more information about what they have shared, or to narrow down the topic or subject.

Example: “Tell us more about your current workload.” Which one of these projects takes the longest?

Use verbal affirmations that are short and sweet

A few positive, short statements can help you feel more at ease and demonstrate that you are able to absorb the information they provide. You can continue the conversation by using small verbal affirmations that don’t interrupt the speaker or disrupt their flow.

Example: “I understand.” I see.” “Yes, it makes sense.”

Display Empathy

It’s important to ensure that the speaker can understand your emotions and be able to share them with you. You can connect with the speaker by showing compassion rather than feeling it. This will help you establish a mutual trust.

Example: “I’m sorry that you have to deal with this problem.” Let’s talk about how we can help.

Share Similar experiences

Talking about similar situations can not only help the speaker understand their message better, but it can also build relationships. Sharing a problem with the speaker is a great way to get their feedback.

Example: “I also had difficulty getting started with this program. It gets easier. Within a matter of weeks, I was able to use all the features with complete confidence”

Remember previously shared information

You should try to recall key concepts, ideas, or other important points that the speaker shared with you previously. This shows that you are not just listening to the speaker’s words, but also that you can retain and recall details.

Example: “Last Week you suggested adding a senior coordinator to assist with this account. I think that’s great.”

Nod and Smile

A few simple nods to the speaker will show that you are able to understand their message. A simple nod indicates that you are able to understand the message and is not a sign that you agree with it.

A small smile, similar to a nod, encourages the speaker to keep going. It communicates that you are happy with what they’ve said. A short verbal affirmation can be replaced by a smile to help diffuse tension and make the speaker feel comfortable.

Avoid distracted movements

Focus can be communicated by being still. Avoid movements such as glancing at your phone or watch, sighing, doodling, or tapping a pen. It is also important to avoid exchanging non-verbal or verbal communication with other listeners. This can cause the speaker to feel frustrated and uncomfortable.

Maintain eye contact

Keep your eyes focused on the speaker, and not other people or objects. Keep your gaze on the speaker and use smiles and nods to encourage them.

You can build stronger relationships with your coworkers and retain more information by incorporating the non-verbal and verbal skills mentioned above into future conversations. To improve and sustain active listening, you need to practice. These techniques will feel more natural the more you practice them.


You would think that listening is something we are good at. Research shows that most people aren’t good at listening. According to Edgar Dale’s Cone Of Experience, we remember only 25 percent to 50 percent of what is said. This means that if you speak to your boss, coworkers, customers, or spouse for ten minutes, they only pay attention to half of the conversation.

Active listening is a way to improve your listening skills. Active listening is when you are conscious of the message being conveyed and not just the words they say.

Active listening involves careful listening, observation, and feedback in the form accurate paraphrasing. It is used for counseling, training, and solving conflicts or disputes. This requires that the listener pay attention to what is being said, understand it, respond, and recall it in the contexts of intonation, timing, as well as non-verbal cues (body languages).

You can improve your active listening skills to help you get a job, a promotion, or to make your existing role more effective. This soft skill, which is similar to critical thinking and conflict resolution will increase your employee value.

For more training on Active Listening contact our team for a short course, tailored session or online workshop.

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