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Active Listening

Updated on May 4, 2011

What is Active listening?


According to Wikipedia :

"Active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear. The ability to listen actively can improve personal relationships through reducing conflicts, strengthening cooperation, and fostering understanding.

When interacting, people often are not listening attentively. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements). Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others, focusing attention on the speaker. Suspending one’s own frame of reference, suspending judgment and avoiding other internal mental activities are important to fully attend to the speaker."

Why is it difficult to listen?


People tend to not listen for one of many reasons. They may be bored, distracted, or just not interested in the subject. The speaker's delivery of the message, the content, or the environment can cause boredom, distraction, or lack of interest.

only twenty percent


You may wonder sometimes if you have made your point in a conversation, or if the other persons mind is wondering.You have a good reason to feel this way. Studies in communication suggest that only 20% of what we say is remembered by the listener.

signs they are listening

Attentive listening is sometimes also referred to as active listening, or reflective listening. I am going to give you some pointers that will tell you if the person, or people you are speaking to are actually listening to what you are saying.

* Open body language (arms and legs not folded or crossed)

*leaning forward (to better hear what you are saying)

*less blinking

*slow nodding (a fast nod may indicate they want you to hurry up with what you are saying

*stillness (they are not engaged in fidgeting, looking all over the room, or shaking their legs)

*matching your body language

*maintaining steady eye contact

*they will sometimes ask you to repeat what you said, so they can make sure they get all points

*they may ask questions, to show they are absorbing your material

These are a few clues to help you decipher if your listener is actually listening. If you are boring them, it is an indication to move on to a different subject, or be an active listener yourself. If your point was not delivered, try again another day. Or you can try using different techniques to engage your listener.

use body language

To better gauge the person, or people you are talking to into listening, use body language. Make more movement. You are making their mind "see" what you are talking about. An example of the body language you would use is:

Open body language: use open palms, uncrossed legs, and uncrossed arms

Be confident: Stand up straight, but relaxed. Be free flowing. Confidence will show them that you know what you are talking about.

Move around the room: Keep them awake, and help out their attention spans. Move around if you think they are getting bored.

make eye contact

 When talking to a group or a single person, it is important they feel included. Well, it better gauges their interest.Look at each person for a few seconds.  Let them know you see them. Make more of a connection with your audience by using eye contact.

tone of voice

 Do not speak in a flat, boring tone of voice. Your voice is actually very important when speaking. Look at preachers or candidates for presidency. When they talk, they use a powerful voice.

Of course you do not want to be over dramatic, but you want to draw your audience in, not out.Do not speak in a high pitched voice either. Learn a level you are comfortable with, and speak with confidence. If you are confident in what you are saying, others will be also. Speaking with confidence is the main key.


visualize,interact,and switch

Since 60 percent of the population are visuals, use anything that makes them visualize what you are saying. Use a combination of illustration, body language, and videos if possible.

Interact with your audience, or person. If you create an interactive environment, your listeners are going to better hold the material in mind.

A persons attention span varies.After you have been on your main topic for a while, switch. Make sure you switch to something closely related to the topic. For example: let's say I have a speech about catfish. After speaking about catfish for a while, I am going to start talking about fish in general, then switch back to my original topic. You are giving your audience a reason to let their mind wonder slightly, and you are controlling it.

After you have switched, switch back to the main topic.


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