Active listening is a decision to focus your full attention on the speaker to hear and understand what they are saying.

Why is this important?

We build stronger, more trusting relationships when we really listen to others and make them feel heard.

How can you take action?

  • Remove or minimize distractions before the conversation.
  • After the conversation, ask yourself:
    • How well did I stay focused on the other person and really listen?
    • What can I do differently next time to be a more active listener?

What does it look like?

Give the speaker your undivided attention.

Avoid the distractions of your own thoughts and opinions. Consider changing locations, closing your laptop (if in person) using video chat (if remote), or setting aside your cell phone to limit external distractions.

Show that you are listening – Use your own body language and gestures to show you are paying attention (e.g., make eye contact, lean forward and nod.)

Confirm what you are hearing – Personal filters, assumptions, judgments and beliefs can distort what we hear. To confirm understanding:

  • Repeat back; use the speaker’s words
  • Say what you heard in your own words
  • Ask clarifying questions to check your understanding

Avoid interrupting – It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of their message.

Don’t be afraid of silence – Resist the temptation to fill silence by speaking: give the other person time to think as well as talk

Check for mixed messages – Pay attention to see if the speaker’s words match their body language.

For example, do they say they understand what you’ve said but have a confused look?