Active listening – Six Useful Tips
Giving full attention
Careful, non-judgemental attention and eye contact with the speaker aids him/her to express what
Confirming nods of the head and confirmatory sounds prove an accepting atmosphere for free expression
of thoughts, ideas, attitudes and values. Much of the meaning behind the speaker’s
words will come from facial expressions, body language.
Like holding a mirror and reflecting back the ideas and phrases as you hear them. With a slow
speaker it is easy to use a pause, to paraphrase what they have said. For someone more voluble
you may need to interrupt at an appropriate place – ‘can I just stop you there for a moment to
check my understanding?’ Is acceptable providing you do not disturb the speaker’s train of
thought. – gives them a chance to catch their breath.
In addition to the thoughts and ideas the speaker is expressing you will sometimes be aware of
the emotions behind the words. Reflecting these back will test your understanding – ‘you sound
really angry about that’ – Sometimes words and gestures don’t match and you are getting mixed
messages. Reflecting back can help your understanding and also the impact the speaker’s words
are having on the listener (you). This sensitivity to the speaker will help their confidence and encourage
further disclosure. (useful in counselling sessions)
When you are sure you have really understood the speaker you can clarify further by interpreting –
‘So what you are saying is..
‘I find this really interesting carry on’, ‘tell me more about... ‘‘What happened next?’
After a period of reflecting a summary is helpful both to the listener and speaker. ’So you have told
me ….’ Checks mutual understanding and clarifies messages. ‘So let’s go through that …’