Active Listening Skills


Goals: To better understand what another person is communicating.

To relay your understanding to that person.

To improve relationships.

Active Listening is especially useful in two general situations:

1. When you are not certain you understand what the other person means.

2. When an important or emotionally charged message is being sent.

Senders will often indicate that they are saying something particularly significant by:

a. Directly reffering to it as worthy or notice eg. “it is vital for you to understand that..”

b. Repeating a message several times.

c. Placing a point first or last,

d. Pausing or waiting for eye contact before speaking.

e. Speaking more loudly or softly than usual.

F. Speaking more slowly than usual.

When you use active listening, concentrate on reflecting on the feeling others express, the content or both depending upon what you think you may have misunderstood and what you consider most important. To arrive at your statement, silently ask yourself:

“What is he feeling?”

“What is he trying to say?”


“People won’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”


Attending Skills

Non verbal communication that indicates you are paying careful attention to the speaker.

a) Posture of Involvement


  • Face, and incline your body toward the speaker.
  • Maintain a relaxed, open position.
  • Watch for signs of anxiety and position yourself accordingly.

b) Appropriate Body Motion


  • Move your body in response to the speaker.
  • Fidgeting, repeatedly crossing and uncrossing your legs, or continuing with another activity are examples of poor attending skills.

c) Eye Contact


  • Focus softly on the speaker and shift your gaze occasionally.
  • This expresses and interest and a desire to listen.
  • You may have to look at the person’s face before you feel comfortable with eye contact.

d) Non Distracting Environment


  • Cut environmental distractions to a minimum.
  • Turn off the T.V. or radio, close the door, etc.



Reference: OTMH, Third line, Oakville, ON.


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