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What is Active Listening?

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Updated July 07, 2012

Question: What is Active Listening?
Answer:

Active Listening is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, and witholding judgement and advice. Below is an example of a conversation in which active listening is taking place.

Lisa: I had a fight with my sister and we haven't spoken since then.

Jodie: You had a fight and you guys aren't talking.

Lisa: Yes. We were arguing because I wanted her to come over to our place for the holidays but she said it was too difficult with the kids in tow. I was really mad at the time, but now I feel kind of bad.

Jodie: You were arguing about where to spend the holidays and it made you mad then, but now you feel a little bad about it.

Lisa: Yes, she just makes me so angry, assuming that because I don't have children I can't possibly understand what it is like. I knew it would be hard for her, but I thought that she would want to spend the holidays at our place anyway. We just couldn't agree at all.

Jodie: So you were angry because she assumes that you can't understand what it is like to have kids, and also because she didn't want to make the effort to come.

Lisa: Totally. Maybe I should just tell her again that I understand it is hard, but that I really hope she can come. Or maybe they could just come for the day instead of staying overnight. I just don't want to argue with her anymore.

Jodie: You think you could talk to her and tell her you understand it is hard, but that maybe she could just come for the day.

Lisa: Yes, that's what I think I will do.

As you can see, actively listening makes the speaker feel heard and encourages open conversation.

Source:

Pennsylvania State University. Active Listening. Accessed May 10, 2010.

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