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Active Listening

What is active listening?

Active listening, or AL, is a communication skill. It is a way of listening closely to what a person has to say. It is done by giving the person your full attention. You show interest and appreciation for his thoughts and concerns. You commit to him by letting him speak without interrupting. AL lets you show your respect, support, and concern for the other person. AL promotes trust between you and the other person. You become a companion as you listen to his views.

Why is active listening important?

Some people do not clearly say what they feel, think, or want. They give clues instead. Through AL, you may be able to spot and understand the person's clues. By exploring and learning about a person's thoughts, you can better understand that person. This then allows you to know his real ideas, feelings, and concerns. AL can lead to having a better understanding of the other person and a better relationship with him.

Why is active listening difficult to do?

AL can be hard to do and you need to have the intent to do it. You need to give your full concentration and undivided attention as you listen. You need to understand the other person's thoughts through his statements and actions. You do not just hear what the person says, but you also see, feel, and imagine it. You do this to be able to unwrap and figure the message he is trying to tell you. In listening, you should be free of your own concerns and not be judgmental about what he says.

What are following skills?

Following skills are things that show that you are paying attention and listening closely to the other person. They are also things you may do to encourage the other person to speak. These things let the other person talk and tell his story in his own way. You may do the following:

  • Invite the person to start talking by asking him "What is on your mind?"

  • When he begins with his story, you can give small cues that let him know that you are following him. You may nod your head or say "uh-huh" to get him to continue. Comments, such as "I see what you mean" or "I can really appreciate that" may help show your interest.

  • Ask questions once in a while to help you better understand him. Make sure that these questions do not draw the person away from his story.

  • Be attentive and maintain eye contact during silence pauses. Observe the person's facial expressions and actions. Try to understand what he is saying, thinking about, and feeling.

What are reflecting skills?

Reflecting skills include retelling the content and feeling of what the other person has just told you. You show the person that you understand his thoughts. You may do the following:

  • Paraphrase the person's message using simple, brief words. This lets you check with the person if you understood his basic message. You may use a phrase such as "Sounds like you are saying . . ." to start your paraphrase.

  • Clarify things that are confusing to you or that you do not understand. You may say "I am not sure I understand, can you tell me more?" Admit that you do not have a clear understanding yet and ask the person to clear up the meaning, repeat, or explain.

  • Reflect the feelings and concerns that the person has told you or implied. This means mirroring back the emotions that the person is expressing. You may also reflect back his concerns by using words different than what he used.

  • Summarize the major points that the other person has told you. Ask him for feedback. Ask the person to confirm if you got the correct idea of what he said.

How is active listening shown in my body language?

Body language is the communication a person makes without using words. It includes posture and gestures, body movement, facial expressions, and eye contact. Your body language may show if you are listening with your full attention. It may also show whether you understand the things that the other person is saying. The following body language may help in active listening:

  • Have a comfortable and relaxed position. Usually a slightly forward lean with relaxed arms shows that you are interested. Do not fold your arms across your chest or look away while listening. These movements may show you are not interested or concerned. These actions may also show that you are judging and disagreeing with what the person is saying.

  • Look at the person while he is speaking.

  • Nod your head and smile when proper.

  • Do your listening in a place with as few distractions as possible. You may do this by being away from other people, closing the door, or turning off your phone.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Make sure that your thoughts are heard and understood. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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