One of the tools that great listeners use is active listening. This type of listening
involves both verbal and non-verbal communication and is a highly effective form of
communication. When all parties of a conversation use active listening, the outcomes
are almost always favorable.
What is active listening?
Active listening is a technique used to maximize communication and ensure people feel
heard and understood. Active listening has three main components
Active listening is reflective- One of the keys to active listening is reflecting.
Reflecting happens when the listener pays close attention to what is being said and
offers a summary of what they heard before moving on. This helps the speaker know
what they’ve said was heard in the way they intended. If the speaker feels
misunderstood or wants to clarify their point, reflective listening helps. Using reflective
listening and sharing a summary of what was heard, people stay on the same page with
Active listening is empathic- Empathic listening is designed to encourage and
support. Empathy can be shown verbally and non-verbally. Saying things like “I
understand” or “mmm hmm” can encourage a speaker. Nodding our head, using eye
contact, and having an open body stance can also indicate empathy. Empathy creates
comfort and encourages other people to speak freely, openly, and honestly about their
Active listening is purposeful- Using the active listening techniques should be
purposeful. Though they may become second nature over time, it’s best to use the
techniques on purpose when having conversations. Being self-aware and making sure
you are asking questions, using empathy, avoiding distractions, reflecting, and
encouraging should be top of mind. Doing your best to have high-quality conversations
will help them go better.
Active listening is a tool used by professional communicators like counselors,
mediators, and others but it doesn’t need to be limited to professionals. Anyone can use
active listening and build stronger relationships and become better listeners.
Practical uses for active listening
Use active listening with your family. Reflect what they are saying and ask clarifying
questions when things don’t make sense. Your family will appreciate you trying to
understand what they are saying and feel heard.
Use active listening in the marketplace. When you run up against someone who is
frustrated, use active listening to help them calm down and feel heard. Many times,
people who seem grumpy or agitated can be turned around by using reflection and
empathy. This applies to staff you may encounter as a customer or customers who may
be upset with you.
Half the battle of good communication is effectively listening to what is being said. Using
active listening helps reduce miscommunication and bridges the gap towards complete
understanding. It’s an excellent way to listen better and create high-quality