What is Active Listening and why is it such an important skill?
Listening actively is becoming increasingly a lost art. Why? Today’s world has sped up dramatically. It sometimes even feels as if time is moving faster. Consequently, it is difficult for many of us to slow down, pause and reflect on our days.
As a result, it feels as if some very important life skills have become more and more difficult for many students to understand and master. These include: Slowing down, sitting silently for a prolonged period of time and actively listening when others are speaking (i.e. comprehending and following other’s directions!)
What is Active Listening?
Active listening refers to a pattern of listening. This pattern keeps us engaged with our conversation partner in a positive way. Therefore, it is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks. This includes paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, and withholding judgment and advice.
That’s a tall order! But the pay off is worth it. When we practice active listening, we make the other person feel heard and valued. In this way, active listening is the foundation for any successful conversation.
It differs from critical listening. In active listening, 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. Perhaps it also serves as a sounding board to aid in that person solving their own problems.
Why is Active Listening
Active listening involves more than just hearing someone speak. When you practice listening actively, you are fully concentrating on what is being said. You listen with all of your senses. You give your full attention to the person speaking.
Active Listening involves:
- Remaining silent while another speaks
- Being patient (periods of silence are not “filled”)
- Staying neutral and nonjudgmental
- Verbal and nonverbal feedback
(e.g., body faces the speaker, smiling, eye contact, leaning in)
- Asking questions
- Reflecting back what is said
When you listen actively, you are fully engaged and immersed in what the other person is saying. It also means NOT engaging in bad listening habits.
Active Listening discourages:
- Fidgeting or facing a different direction
- Daydreaming, pretending to pay attention
- Interrupting the speaker
- Not making eye contact
- Becoming distracted, being stuck in your own head
- Forgetting what was said
- Ignoring what you don’t understand
Tips for Practicing Active Listening
As a caregiver or an educator, it is critical to practice active listening with your children. To many, this does not come naturally. Here are 5 Tips to better listening.
5 Tips to better listening:
- Be patient while you listen – be silent, neutral, and withhold judgment.
- Tall, strong posture – Turn your chair toward the speaker, body forward. Long, tall back and feet touching the ground.
- Make Eye Contact – Look the speaker in the eye and avoid fidgeting. Nothing should be in your hands. Try not to yawn!
- Smile – Small smiles and nods of the head show the listener you are paying attention.
- Say back – Show interest by reflecting back what is said by paraphrasing or asking questions of clarification. Avoid abruptly changing the subject!
Do you have more suggestions for empowering children? Do you have a suggestion for another blog topic? Please send me an email with your ideas and experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Read more: What Are Literature Circles?
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References and Read More about Active Listening:
The Center for Parenting Education: THE SKILL OF LISTENING
Active Listening: The Art of Empathetic Conversation