Active Listening

Active Listening

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Form of listening that consists in focusing the attention on what the speaker is communicating both verbally and nonverbally, suspending judgment and verifying that a statement has been correctly heard and understood. The listener should entirely focus on the speaker, paying close attention not only to what he/she is saying but also to his/her feelings. When a communication is emotionally charged the listener may make speaker’s emotions explicit saying sentences like “you seem angry” or “you seem annoyed”. Active listening requires the listener to play an active role in the conversation: he/she should ask questions, paraphrase and summarize what the speaker said, and show that he/she is carefully listening by saying “I see” or nodding the head. Active listening can be very useful to improve mutual understanding and resolve conflicts, as it helps overcoming listening barriers such as distractions or prejudices. [1]

Toolkit.png Improving listening skills

Step by Step

  1. Make sure you have the time for a talk before starting one.
  2. Remove any distractions such as computer or mobile phone.
  3. Listen to the speaker without interrupting:
    • Allow the speaker to end his/her statement.
    • Defer your own judgment and counter-arguments.
  4. Focus on what the speaker is saying as well as on the underlying messages sent through his/her tone and body language.
  5. Stay concentrated and avoid glancing at your watch, as it shows a loss of interest.
  6. Keep eye contact while listening as well as while replying or asking questions.
  7. Show the speaker that you are listening by nodding your head, smiling, or making comments such as “yes”, “I see”, “uh huh”.
  8. Give feedback to make sure you really understood speaker’s message.
    • Paraphrase and summarize what he/she said.
    • Ask questions.
  9. Remember that active listening is a skill you acquire through practice. You might need time to improve it.[2]

Job Aid

Pdf.png Improving listening skills


  1. (24 July 2008), (24 July 2008), Wikipedia (24 July 2008), (15 December 2009), (15 December 2009), (15 December 2009), (15 December 2009); Instructor Competencies – Standards for Face-to-Face, Online, and Blended Settings, James D. Klein, M. Michael Spector, Barbara Grabowski, Ileana de la Teja, 2004
  2. (15 December 2009), (15 December 2009), (15 December 2009)