Active Listening

What is active listening? Do you like music? How do you listen to your favourite music? When I was a teenager, I used to learn by heart the lyrics of my favourite songs. Still today I try to do it. I can easily learn the lyrics if I listen carefully to the song and if I listen to the same song several times.

The same thing happens with people. Nowadays most of us are more interested in speaking than listening. Though, to be able to understand each other properly, you should listen attentively to your interlocutor. Not only carefully listening shows respect to the person who does the talking but it shows also empathy. That is why listening is essential in building connections.

There is one powerful technique, that I learned in coaching, Active Listening.  It is a communication technique where the listener focus for about 70% on listening, and the remaining 30% splits into 20% of questions, and 10% your opinion. Read carefully, only 10% should be used to express your opinion (unless you are asked, of course).

You would need to be sure of what the person is saying, therefore you will rephrase their sentence. You can also ask confirmation of what has been said. Questions to assure the other that you are listening are also useful. Body language helps a lot. Don’t sit with legs or arms crossed, it would give the impression that you are a closed person, or impatient, or even challenging. Consider also the distance between the other and yourself. Don’t stay too close, usually one meter is okay, it leaves enough space for communicating well in a close but safe way. It also depends on the culture of your interlocutor.

When you ask a question, it has to be an open question, meaning that you don’t ask questions that have a yes or no answer.

Basically, you can use the 5 Ws of journalism to which you add “How”. Have a look:

  1. Who/what precisely…?
  2. When did it happen?
  3. Where did i happen?
  4. Why do you believe that…?
  5. How did it happen?

Active listening could allow us to feel the emotions that our interlocutors feel and we could thus anticipate their reactions. When people feel understood, the path of trust and good understanding opens up. Active listening allows you to renew a bond that could have seemed broken.

Are you aware of your way of listening?

For more on coaching techniques, please, visit my blog.

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17 thoughts on “Active Listening

  1. What a great article on listening, Cristiana. I love the last two sentences, “When people feel understood, the path of trust and good understanding opens up. Active listening allows you to renew a bond that could have seemed broken.”

    Thanks for excellent coaching on conversations, body language, questions to ask! So helpful!

  2. I agree with you about active listening.
    I get very annoyed when I call someone and hear sounds of dishes being washed, stirring coffee with a spoon, emptying their dishwasher, or engaging in an activity other than actively listening to me.
    When someone is talking to me, I believe in looking at them, listening attentively, and nodding. If it is a telephone call, I make an affirmative sound or repeat something they have said without interrupting to let them know that I am listening to them.
    My wise mother instilled in me that “We have two ears but one mouth for a reason. You listen twice as much as you talk.”
    Best wishes.

  3. Thank you for sharing this excellent post on active listening. So rich with great points! 🙏

  4. Thank you for sharing this wonderfully written post! It covers most aspects of active learning, even the feedback. I’m not a very good speaker and prefer to listen rather than talk, and thus sometimes forget to give feedback so the other person knows that I am listening to them. About the distance part, I believe it depends not just on the culture, but also on how loud the speaker is. I have a friend who speaks very softly, so maintaining a distance of 1 metre while conversing with her is almost impossible 😅. Anyway, keep up the good work!

    1. Thank you! Happy that you enjoyed the post! And you are right, if someone speaks with a very low tone, it’s better to go closer, not to miss any part of the dialogue!

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