How to Practice Active Listening

How to Practice Active Listening


Features of Active Listening

Active listening involves more than just hearing someone speak. When you practice active listening, you are fully concentrating on what is being said. You listen with all of your senses and give your full attention to the person speaking.

Below are some features of active listening:1

  • Neutral and nonjudgmental
  • Patient (periods of silence are not “filled”)
  • Verbal and nonverbal feedback to show signs of listening (e.g., smiling, eye contact, leaning in, mirroring)
  • Asking questions
  • Reflecting back what is said
  • Asking for clarification
  • Summarizing

The Purpose

Active listening serves the purpose of earning the trust of others and helping you to understand their situations. Active listening comprises both a desire to comprehend as well as to offer support and empathy to the speaker.

It differs from critical listening, in that you are not evaluating the message of the other person with the goal of offering your own opinion. Rather, the goal is simply for the other person to be heard, and perhaps to solve their own problems.

Active listening means not engaging in unhelpful listening habits such as the following:

  • Being stuck in your own head
  • Not showing respect for the speaker
  • Only hearing superficial meaning (not hearing underlying meaning)
  • Interrupting
  • Not making eye contact
  • Rushing the speaker
  • Becoming distracted

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