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Active Listening

Active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to feed back what he or she hears to the speaker. This communication can be in the form of simple repetition of what the speaker has said or by paraphrasing in the listener’s own words. Active listening aims to confirm that the message as spoken has been received and understood by the listener.

Elements of Active Listening

There are three elements in active listening:

  • Comprehending, in which the listener seeks to understand what he or she is hearing.
  • Retaining, in which the listener mindfully listens to the speaker and makes sense of what he or she hears. Memory plays a crucial part in listening – it is only after we have listened to the entire message that we can understand it.
  • Responding is an interaction between the listener and speaker – the communication can be verbal (the listener becomes the speaker when reflecting back what he or she has understood) or non-verbal (e.g. head nodding).

Degrees of Listening

There are three degrees of active listening:

  1. Repeating the message using the same words used by the speaker.
  2. Paraphrasing. Rendering the message using similar words and similar phrase arrangement to the ones used by the speaker.
  3. Reflecting. Rendering the message using your own words and sentence structure.