Active Listening

Active Listening Essay
May 7, 2008

Active listening is a communication skill that facilitates understanding, comprehension, and compassion between people. Good listeners “actively process information, make pertinent comments, and ask relevant questions” (Brent and Anderson 123). They are engaged in the conversation and purposeful in listening, thereby creating opportunities that improve relationships, increase cooperation, solve problems, and build intimacy.

According to Philippa Cordingley, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Canada’s Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education, there are four subsets of skills involved in active listening (5). They include: valuing silence, listening to what has actually been said, using affirming body language, and reframing what has been said to check meaning. Silence is important because it shows the listener is attentive, allows the speaker to finish what they are saying, and, to some extent, provides the speaker with the opportunity to hear him or herself talk. It’s also important for the listener to fight the urge to speak what is on their mind and listen to what is actually being said. Listeners may want to add something to conversation, e.g., make suggestions; in doing so, however, the listener might miss the real meaning of what is being said. Using affirming body language is also important in letting the speaker know the listener's attention, e.g., nodding and smiling. Finally, it’s important for the listener to repeat back what they heard in their own words. This allows the speaker to reconsider what they have said and clarify details.

Active listening is important in all situations where people are communicating with each other. According to the National Communication Association, “effective communication is critical to achieving high quality personal and work relationships” (36). In the workplace active listening allows employers to understand their employees and create a workplace that is...