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Active Listening

Active Listening last Updated – Sept. 2023

Active listening is when the listener’s brain tries to understand the speaker’s intention. 

Active listening is the opposite of “passive” listening.  In passive listening the listener’s brain does nothing to ensure it understands the intent of the speaker.

Active listening is when the listener provides feedback to the speaker so the speaker can create new messages that help the listener better understand the speaker.

The assumption in communication is that our brains are imperfect understanders of others. 

We barely understand ourselves, let alone someone else.  Selective Perception, motivatived reasoning, confirmation bias, and cultural and linguistic bias are natural forces that make understanding others difficult.

Active Listening is the process by which an individual secures information from another individual or group by actively engaging with them to ensure understanding.  

The active element involves taking steps to draw out information that might not otherwise be shared.

Like critical thinking and problem-solving, active listening is a soft skill that is held in high regard by employers and others.

When interviewing for jobs, use active listening techniques to show the interviewer the skills you have.

Listen carefully to the interviewer’s questions, ask for clarification if necessary, and wait until the interviewer has finished talking to respond.

Examples of Active Listening Techniques

  • Building trust and establishing rapport.
  • Demonstrating concern.
  • Paraphrasing to show understanding.
  • Nonverbal cues which show understanding such as nodding, eye contact, and leaning forward.
  • Brief verbal affirmations like I see, I know, sure, or I understand.
  • Asking open-ended questions.
  • Asking specific questions to seek clarification.

Examples of Active Listening

  • So, you are saying that the uncertainty about who will be your new supervisor is creating stress for you.
  • I am eager to help you; I know you are going through some tough challenges.
  • I understand that you would like more frequent feedback about your performance.
  • Tell me what I can do to help.
  • I can see that the current situation is intolerable for you. What changes would you like to see?
  • I was also very conflicted about returning to work after the birth of my son.
  • I can see that John’s criticism was very upsetting to you. Which aspect of his critique was most disturbing?
  • Tell me more about your proposal to reorganize the department.
  • So, you think that we need to build up our social media marketing efforts.

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