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Active listening – Six Useful Tips

Giving full attention

Careful, non-judgemental attention and eye contact with the speaker aids him/her to express what

they want.

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.

Reflecting data

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.

Reflecting feelings

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 …

Every Success

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