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Active listening

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Active listening chart[citation needed]

Active listening is a communication technique used in counselling, training and conflict resolution, which
requires the listener to feed back what they hear to the speaker, by way of re-stating or paraphrasing what they
have heard in their own words, to confirm what they have heard and moreover, to confirm the understanding of
both parties.

When interacting, people often "wait to speak" rather than listening attentively. They might also be distracted.
Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others, focusing attention on the "function" of
communicating objectively as opposed to focusing on "forms", passive expression or subjectivity.

There are many opinions on what "active listening" is. A search of the term reveals interpretations of the
"activity" as including "interpreting body language" or focusing on something other than or in addition to words.
Successful communication is the establishment of common ground between two peopleunderstanding.
Agreeing to disagree is common ground. Common ground can be false, i.e., a person says they feel a certain
way but they do not. Nevertheless it is common ground, once accepted as understood. Dialogue,
understanding and progress can only arise from that common ground. And that common ground cannot be
established without respect for the words as spoken by the speaker, for whatever reason.

Thus the essence of active listening is as simple as it is effective: paraphrasing the speakers words back to
them as a question. There is little room for assumption or interpretation. It is functional, mechanical and leaves
little doubt as to what is meant by what is said. "The process is successful if the person receiving the
information gives feedback which shows understanding for meaning. Suspending one's own frame of
reference, suspending judgment and avoiding other internal mental activities are important to fully attend to the



1 Primary elements

o 1.1 Comprehending

o 1.2 Retaining

o 1.3 Responding

2 Tactics

3 Use

4 Barriers to active listening

o 4.1 Shift response

5 Overcoming listening barriers

6 Misconceptions about listening

7 Active listening in music

8 See also

9 References

10 External links
Primary elements[edit]
There are three key elements of active listening: comprehending retaining responding .[citation needed]

Comprehension is "shared meaning between parties in a communication transaction". [1] This is the first step in
the listening process. The first challenge for the listener is accurately identifying speech sounds and
understanding and synthesizing these sounds as words.[citation needed] We are constantly bombarded with auditory
stimuli, so the listener has to select which of those stimuli are speech sounds and choose to pay attention to
the appropriate sounds (attending).[citation needed] The second challenge is being able to discern breaks between
discernible words, or speech segmentation.[1] This becomes significantly more difficult with an unfamiliar
language because the speech sounds blend together into a continuous jumble. Determining the context and
meanings of each word is essential to comprehending a sentence. [citation needed]

This is the second step in the listening process. Memory is essential to the listening process because the
information we retain when involved in the listening process is how we create meaning from words. We depend
on our memory to fill in the blanks when we're listening. Because everyone has different memories, the speaker
and the listener may attach different meanings to the same statement. However, our memories are fallible and
we can't remember everything that we've ever listened to. There are many reasons why we forget some
information that we've received. The first is cramming. When you cram there is a lot of information entered into
your short term memory. Shortly after cramming, when you don't need the information anymore, it is purged
from your brain before it can be transferred into your long term memory.[2] The second reason is that you aren't
paying attention when you receive the information. Alternatively, when you receive the information you may not
attach importance to it, so it loses its meaning. A fourth reason is at the time the information was received you
lacked motivation to listen carefully to better remember it.[1] Using information immediately after receiving it
enhances information retention and lessens the forgetting curve (the rate at which we no longer retain
information in our memory).[3] Retention is lessened when we engage in mindless listening, where little effort is
made to listen to a speaker's message. Mindful listening is active listening.

Listening is an interaction between speaker and listener. It adds action to a normally passive process. The
speaker looks for verbal and nonverbal responses from the listener to if the message is being listened to.
Usually the response is nonverbal because if the response is verbal the speaker/listener roles are reversed so
the listener becomes the speaker and is no longer listening. Based on the response the speaker chooses to
either adjust or continue with his/her communication style.

Active listening involves the listener observing the speaker's behavior and body language. Having the ability to
interpret a person's body language lets the listener develop a more accurate understanding of the speaker's
message.[4] When the listener does not respond to the speaker's nonverbal language, (s)he engages in a
content-only response which ignores the emotions that guide the message. [citation needed] Having heard, the listener
may then paraphrase the speaker's words. It is important to note that the listener is not necessarily agreeing
with the speakersimply stating what was said. In emotionally charged communications, the listener may listen
for feelings.[citation needed] Thus, rather than merely repeating what the speaker has said, the active listener will
describe the underlying emotion ("You seem to feel angry," or "You seem to feel frustrated, is that
because ... ?").[citation needed]

Individuals in conflict often contradict each other. This has the effect of denying the validity of the other person's
position.[citation needed] Ambushing occurs when one listens to someone else's argument for its weaknesses and
ignore its strengths.[1] The purpose is to attack the speakers position and support their own. [citation needed] This may
include a distortion of the speakers argument to gain a competitive advantage. Either party may
react defensively, and they may lash out or withdraw.[citation needed] On the other hand, if one finds that the other
party understands, an atmosphere of cooperation can be created. This increases the possibility
of collaborating and resolving the conflict.[citation needed]

In the book Leader Effectiveness Training, Thomas Gordon, who coined the term "active listening,"[5] states
"Active listening is certainly not complex. Listeners need only restate, in their own language, their impression of
the expression of the sender. ... Still, learning to do Active Listening well is a rather difficult task ..." [6]

Active listening is used in a wide variety of situations, including public interest advocacy, community
organizing, tutoring,[7] medical workers talking to patients,[8] HIV counseling,[9]helping suicidal persons,
management,[11] counseling and journalistic settings. In groups it may aid in reaching consensus. It may also
be used in casual conversation or small talk to build understanding, though this can be interpreted as
Active listening chart[citation needed]

A listener can use several degrees of active listening, each resulting in a different quality of communication.
The active listening chart below shows the three main degrees of listening: repeating, paraphrasing and
reflecting.[citation needed]

The proper use of active listening results in getting people to open up, avoiding misunderstandings, resolving
conflict, and building trust.[12] In a medical context, benefits may include increased patient satisfaction,
improved cross-cultural communication,[13] improved outcomes,[8] or decreasedlitigation.[14]

Active listening can be lifted by the active listening observation scale. [15]

Barriers to active listening[edit]

All elements of communication, including listening, may be affected by barriers that can impede the flow of
conversation.[citation needed] Such barriers include distractions, trigger words, vocabulary, and limited attention span.

Listening barriers may be psychological (e.g. emotions) or physical (e.g. noise and visual distraction). Cultural
differences including speakers' accents, vocabulary, and misunderstandings due to cultural assumptions often
obstruct the listening process.[citation needed]

Frequently, the listener's personal interpretations, attitudes, biases, and prejudices lead to ineffective
communication.[citation needed]
Shift response[edit]
The first of these is the shift response which is the general tendency in a conversation to affix the attention to
you. There is competition between individuals for attention and a focus on self by shifting the topic; it is a me-
oriented technique.[citation needed] The listener shifts from a passive position, receiver, to an active role, sender.[citation
This is a type ofconversational narcissism; the tendency of listeners to turn the topic of conversations to
themselves without showing sustained interest in others listening.[17] With conversational narcissism there is a
tendency to overuse the shift response and under use the support response. [citation needed] A support response is
the opposite of a shift response; it is an attention giving method and a cooperative effort to focus the
conversational attention on the other person. Instead of being me-oriented like shift response, it is we-oriented.
It is the response most likely to be used by a competent communicator [1]

Overcoming listening barriers[edit]

To use the active listening technique to improve interpersonal communication, one puts personal emotions
aside during the conversation, asks questions and paraphrases back to the speaker to clarify understanding,
and one also tries to overcome all types of environment distractions. Judging or arguing prematurely is a result
of holding onto a strict personal opinion. [19] This hinders the ability to be able to listen closely to what is being
said. Furthermore, the listener considers the speaker's background, both cultural and personal, to benefit as
much as possible from the communication process.[citation needed] Eye contact and appropriate body languages are
seen as important components to active listening. Effective listening involves focusing on what the speaker is
saying; at times the listener might come across certain key words which may help them understand the
speaker.[citation needed] The stress and intonation may also keep them active and away from distractions. Taking
notes on the message can aid in retention.[citation needed]

Misconceptions about listening[edit]

There are several misconceptions about listening. The first of these is listening and hearing are the same thing.
[citation needed]
Hearing is the physiological process of registering sound waves as they hit the eardrum. [citation
We have no control over what we hear. The sounds we hear have no meaning until we give them their
meaning in context.[citation needed] Listening on the other hand is an active process that constructs meaning from
both verbal and nonverbal messages.[1]

Active listening in music[edit]

Active Listening has been developed as a concept in music and technology by Franois Pachet, researcher
at Sony Computer Science Laboratory - Paris. Active listening in music refers to the idea that listeners can be
given some degree of control on the music they listen to, by means of technological applications mainly based
on artificial intelligence andinformation theory techniques, by opposition to traditional listening, in which the
musical media is played passively by some neutral device
See also[edit]

Appreciative listening

Auditory processing disorder

Four-sides model

Informational listening

Nonviolent Communication

Reflective listening

Workplace listening

1. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f In the Company of Others: An Introduction to

Communication. New York: Oxford University Press. 2010. pp. 157

166. ISBN 0-19-533630-5.OCLC 276930486.

2. Jump up^ Wurman, R. (1989). Information anxiety. New York: Doubleday.

3. Jump up^ Bahrick HP (March 1984). "Semantic memory content in

permastore: fifty years of memory for Spanish learned in school". J Exp

Psychol Gen 113 (1): 129.PMID 6242406.

4. Jump up^ Atwater, Eastwood (1981). I Hear You. Prentice-Hall.

p. 83. ISBN 0-13-450684-7.

5. Jump up^ Segal, Morley (1997). Points of influence: a guide to using

personality theory at work. Jossey-Bass. p. 215. ISBN 978-0-7879-0260-5.

6. Jump up^ Gordon, Thomas (1977). Leader Effectiveness Training. New

York: Wyden books. p. 57. ISBN 0-399-12888-3.

7. Jump up^ Maudsley G (March 1999). "Roles and responsibilities of the

problem based learning tutor in the undergraduate medical

curriculum". BMJ 318 (7184): 65761.PMC 1115096. PMID 10066213.

8. ^ Jump up to:a b c Lang F, Floyd MR, Beine KL (2000). "Clues to patients'

explanations and concerns about their illnesses. A call for active

listening". Arch Fam Med 9 (3): 222

7.doi:10.1001/archfami.9.3.222. PMID 10728107.

9. Jump up^ Baxter P, Campbell T. (August 712, 1994). "HIV counselling

skills used by health care workers in Zambia (abstract no. PD0743)". Int

Conf AIDS 10 (390).

10. Jump up^ Laflamme G (1996). "[Helping suicidal persons by active

listening]". Infirm Que (in French) 3 (4): 35. PMID 9147668.

11. Jump up^ Mineyama S, Tsutsumi A, Takao S, Nishiuchi K, Kawakami N

(2007). "Supervisors' attitudes and skills for active listening with regard to

working conditions and psychological stress reactions among subordinate

workers". J Occup Health 49 (2): 81

7. doi:10.1539/joh.49.81. PMID 17429164.

12. Jump up^ "Active Listening". Inspiration. White Dove Books. Retrieved 19

April 2012.

13. Jump up^ Davidhizar R (2004). "Listeninga nursing strategy to

transcend culture". J Pract Nurs54 (2): 224; quiz 267. PMID 15460343.

14. Jump up^ Robertson K (2005). "Active listening: more than just paying

attention". Aust Fam Physician 34 (12): 10535. PMID 16333490.

15. Jump up^ Fassaert T, van Dulmen S, Schellevis F, Bensing J (2007).

"Active listening in medical consultations: development of the Active

Listening Observation Scale (ALOS-global)".Patient Educ Couns 68 (3):

25864. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2007.06.011.PMID 17689042.

16. Jump up^ Reed, Warren H. (1985). Positive listening: learning to hear

what people are really saying. New York: F. Watts. ISBN 0-531-09583-5.
17. Jump up^ Derber, C. (1979). The pursuit of attention: Power and

individualism in everyday life. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 5.

18. Jump up^ Vangelisti, A.; Knapp, M.; Daly, J. (1990). "Conversational

narcissism".Communication Monographs (57): 251274.

19. Jump up^ Lama, Dalai. "Top 3 Barriers to Effective Listening". People

Communicating. Retrieved 19 April 2012.

20. Jump up^ Franois Pachet The Future of Content is in Ourselves. The

Future of Content is in Ourselves. In M. Tokoro, editor, Open System

Science, pages 133-158, IOS Press. 2010.

21. Jump up^ Franois Pachet Active Listening: What is in the Air?.In

Miranda, E., editor, Musica y Nuevas Tecnologias: Perspectivas para el

Siglo XXI, L'Angelot. 1999.

22. Jump up^ Franois Pachet Constraints for Multimedia Applications.

Proceedings of PACLP 1999, London, March 1999. The Practical

Application Company.

External links[edit]

Listening is powerful medicine, National Public Radio, February 2009

Active Listening International Online Training Program On Intractable

Conflict: Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Empathic listening skills How to listen so others feel heard, or listening first
aid (University of California). Download a one hour seminar on empathic
listening and attending skills.

Exercise 4 Active Listening, Center for Rural Studies, University of

Vermont, Montpelier

Active listening: A communication tool

www.listen-write.com Free Dictation Exercises

Relationship counseling

Active Listening
Part of our: Listening Skills series.

Active listening is a skill that can be acquired and developed with

practice. However, active listening can be difficult to master and
will, therefore, take time and patience.

'Active listening' means, as its name suggests, actively listening.

That is fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just
passively hearing the message of the speaker.

Active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention
to the speaker, it is important that the active listener is also seen to be listening
- otherwise the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is
uninteresting to the listener.

Interest can be conveyed to the speaker by using both verbal and non-verbal
messages such as maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and smiling,
agreeing by saying Yes or simply Mmm hmm to encourage them to continue.
By providing this 'feedback' the person speaking will usually feel more at ease
and therefore communicate more easily, openly and honestly.

Listening is the most fundamental component of interpersonal communication

skills. Listening is not something that just happens (that is hearing), listening is an active process in
which a conscious decision is made to listen to and understand the messages of the speaker.
Listeners should remain neutral and non-judgmental, this means trying not to take sides or form
opinions, especially early in the conversation. Active listening is also about patience - pauses and
short periods of silence should be accepted. Listeners should not be tempted to jump in with
questions or comments every time there are a few seconds of silence. Active listening involves
giving the other person time to explore their thoughts and feelings, they should, therefore, be given
adequate time for that.

Active listening not only means focusing fully on the speaker but also actively showing
verbal and non-verbal signs of listening. Generally speakers want listeners to demonstrate active
listening by responding appropriately to what they are saying. Appropriate responses to listening
can be both verbal and non-verbal:

Signs of Active Listening

Non-Verbal Signs of Attentive or Active Listening

This is a generic list of non-verbal signs of listening, in other words people who
are listening are more likely to display at least some of these signs. However
these signs may not be appropriate in all situations and across all cultures.

Small smiles can be used to show that the listener is paying attention to what is being said or as a
way of agreeing or being happy about the messages being received. Combined with nods of the
head, smiles can be powerful in affirming that messages are being listened to and understood.

Eye Contact
It is normal and usually encouraging for the listener to look at the speaker. Eye contact can however
be intimidating, especially for more shy speakers gauge how much eye contact is appropriate for
any given situation. Combine eye contact with smiles and other non-verbal messages to encourage
the speaker.

Posture can tell a lot about the sender and receiver in interpersonal interactions. The attentive
listener tends to lean slightly forward or sideways whilst sitting. Other signs of active listening may
include a slight slant of the head or resting the head on one hand.
Automatic reflection/mirroring of any facial expressions used by the speaker can be a sign of
attentive listening. These reflective expressions can help to show sympathy and empathy in more
emotional situations. Attempting to consciously mimic facial expressions (i.e. not automatic reflection
of expressions) can be a sign of inattention.

The active listener will not be distracted and therefore will refrain from fidgeting, looking at a clock or
watch, doodling, playing with their hair or picking their fingernails.

Learn more about Non-Verbal Communication.

Be aware that:

It is perfectly possible to learn and mimic non-verbal signs of active listening

and not actually be listening at all.

It is more difficult to mimic verbal signs of listening and comprehension.

Verbal Signs of Attentive or Active Listening

Positive Reinforcement

Although a strong signal of attentiveness, caution should be used

when using positive verbal reinforcement.

Although some positive words of encouragement may be beneficial to the

speaker the listener should use them sparingly so as not to distract from what is
being said or place unnecessary emphasis on parts of the message.
Casual and frequent use of words and phrases, such as: very good, yes or indeed can become
irritating to the speaker. It is usually better to elaborate and explain why you are agreeing with a
certain point.

The human mind is notoriously bad at remembering details, especially for any
length of time.

However, remembering a few key points, or even the name of the speaker, can help to reinforce that
the messages sent have been received and understood i.e. listening has been successful.
Remembering details, ideas and concepts from previous conversations proves that attention was
kept and is likely to encourage the speaker to continue. During longer exchanges it may be
appropriate to make very brief notes to act as a memory jog when questioning or clarifying later.

See our page: Note-Taking.

The listener can demonstrate that they have been paying attention by asking relevant questions
and/or making statements that build or help to clarify what the speaker has said. By asking relevant
questions the listener also helps to reinforce that they have an interest in what the speaker has been

See our pages: Questioning and Types of Question for more information.

Reflecting is closely repeating or paraphrasing what the speaker has said in order to show
comprehension. Reflection is a powerful skill that can reinforce the message of the speaker and
demonstrate understanding.

See our page: Reflection.

Clarifying involves asking questions of the speaker to ensure that the correct message has been
received. Clarification usually involves the use of open questions which enables the speaker to
expand on certain points as necessary.
See our page on Clarification.

Repeating a summary of what has been said back to the speaker is a technique used by the listener
to repeat what has been said in their own words. Summarising involves taking the main points of the
received message and reiterating them in a logical and clear way, giving the speaker chance to
correct if necessary.

See Also:
Listening Skills | Ineffective Listening | Listening Misconceptions

Try our Interpersonal Skills Self-Assessment

Other Relevant Pages:

Note-Taking for Verbal Exchanges | Dealing with Stress - Top Tips
Life Skills | Dealing with Aggression

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What difficulties listener can face in processing language?

However, the students seem to have problems with listening. Here are the most common problems
collected from the learners: the time they spend on studying themselves is too little to improve the
skill, the inappropriate strategies of learner would be a hindrance for their listening comprehension.
The problems are also caused from the listening material and physical settings. To acquire an
acceptable listening skill, students themselves should have much more exposure to variety of
listening. Simultaneously, they should learn the tips or strategies through each of their learning
Sources of difficulty by the listeners?
In: Uncategorized [Edit categories]
Being preoccupied and not listening.
Being so interested in what you have to say that you listen mainly to find an opening to get
the floor.
Formulating and listening to your own rebuttal to what the speaker is saying.
Listening to your own personal beliefs about what is being said.
Evaluating and making judgments about the speaker or the message.
Not asking for clarification when you know that you do not understand.