Active Listening involves lending your undivided attention to someone who is speaking to you. As opposed to passive listening which is merely hearing the speaker without trying to understand what is being said, active listening leads to more effective communication, learning and problem-solving. The article provides information on What Active Listening Is, Active Listening Definition, Active Listening Skills Examples and more.
Active Listening Definition
Active listening is the practice of preparing to listen, observing what verbal and non-verbal messages are being sent, and then providing appropriate feedback for the sake of showing attentiveness to the message being presented. This form of listening conveys a mutual understanding between speaker and listener. Speakers receive confirmation their point is coming across effectively, and listeners absorb more content and understanding by being engaged
Active Listening Skills and Active Listening Examples
Like with most life skills, the best way to foster active listening skills is to model it yourself. Here are a few strategies to practice active listening with your young learners.
Focus On The Speaker
When a child is saying something to you, give them your complete attention. Focus on what they are saying, both with their words as well as with voice inflections, rate of speech and body language. For example, when a child is explaining a picture they have drawn, observe their gestures and facial expressions as a clue for how interested they were in the task.
Maintain eye contact with your speaker. Over time your learners will pick up the practice and reap its social benefits since people who maintain eye contact are seen as warm, trustworthy and approachable. Interact nonverbally with your learners using small gestures or verbal affirmations, such as nodding your head or offering very brief comments such as “I see”. Vocalizations such as “uh-uh” or “hmm-hmm” are other effective ways of showing that you are fully engaged in listening. However, avoid using exaggerated gestures or dramatic expressions which could confuse the speaker as to the import of their words or take away the focus from the speaker to the listener.
Try not to think about how you are going to respond as someone is speaking to you. This will cause you to lose your concentration on what the child has to say to you. Also do not interrupt or finish your speaker’s sentences. This takes the attention completely away from what the other person is saying and focuses it on your own words.
Make sure you have understood what a child has been saying to you by repeating back the message in your own words. Such reflective strategies not only help in summarizing the essential points in a conversation but, if needed, allow the speaker a chance to correct you.
Putting questions to your speaker is perhaps the most definitive sign that you have been listening actively. Use questions to probe for missing information or clarify any points that you might not completely understand. In fact, there are different types of questions suited for different purposes. For example:
- To expand a discussion further, you might ask an open-ended question like, ”How was your weekend?”
- To get specific inputs, close-ended questions are useful like “Are you done with the activity?”
- To expand and extend thinking, reflective questions are helpful like “What do you like best about having a pet?”
Foster Listening Skills
Finally, look for ways your learners can practise listening skills that you have modelled for them. These could be playing games such as Simon Says or Chinese Whispers in which players have to carefully listen for auditory cues. Again you might ask some prediction questions as you are reading a story or read two versions of the same story and then have learners pick out the differences. In general, the idea is to plan learning activities according to their interests so that children remain actively engaged, thereby honing their listening skills.