Active Listening

Barriers to Listening

Typically, we only really listen to 10% of what we hear.

  1. Because we’re not interested
  2. Because we’re distracted
  3. Because we don’t like the speaker
  4. Because we believe the other cannot be influenced
  5. Because we view the subject matter as irrelevant
  6. Because we don’t understand the lan­guage or the subject
  7. Because we don’t want to put in the effort
  8. Because we’re preoccupied with some­thing else
  9. Because of our prejudices
  10. Because of our lack of confidence, or our fear

Ten Commandments of  good listening

  1. STOP TALKING  –  You cannot listen while you are talking.  Polonius said:  “Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice”.
  2. PUT THE SPEAKER AT EASE Help him or her feel that he or she is free to talk.
  3. SHOW THAT YOU WANT TO LISTEN Look and act interested. Don’t ignore her while she talks.  Listen to understand…rather than to reply.
  4. REMOVE DISTRACTIONS Don’t doodle, tap your foot, or shuffle papers.
  5. EMPATHIZE WITH HIM Try to put yourself in his shoes so you can see his point of view.
  6. BE PATIENT – Allow plenty of time. Don’t interrupt her.  Don’t start for the door or walk away.
  7. HOLD YOUR TEMPER An angry man gets the wrong meaning from words. “He who angers you conquers you”.
  8. GO EASY ON ARGUMENT AND CRITICISM This puts her on the defensive. She may “clam up” or get angry.  Don’t argue. If you win…you lose.
  9. ASK QUESTIONS This encourages him and shows that you are listening. It helps develop points further.
  10. STOP TALKING This is the first and last commandment because all the others depend on it. You just can’t do a good job of listening while you’re talking!

How to be an “Active” Listener

“Active” listeners fully involves themselves in understanding what the sender of a message is trying to communicate.

To PREPARE YOURSELF to listen actively you must…

  • Be motivated to listen. Be prepared to work at it;
  • Concentrate fully on understanding the sender;
  • Avoid distractions (fight them off if you have to!);
  • Suspend judgment. Don’t evaluate the message as you receive it;
  • Relax;
  • Respect each person’s views, even if they are dif­ferent from your own.


  1. Attending Behaviors: Look like you are listening: (move closer to the sender; lean forward; establish eye contact; adopt an “open” body position.)
  2. Clarify and check un­derstanding:
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions
  • The idea is to expand the conversation and get underneath
  1. Confirm un­derstanding:
  • Ask Closed-Ended Questions
  • Paraphrase (express the sender’s message in your own words)
  • Use questions to explore.