Active Listening



Active Listening 1


While being a good speaker is a very important skill, listening is arguably more important. Listening can help you understand people better, learn more, avoid misunderstandings, and make fewer mistakes (because you’ll get it the first time). Listening is not something that just happens, hearing does. Listening takes effort, and it CAN be improved with practice. What can you do to become an active listener?

1. Make an effort to really pay attention to the speaker. Start by maintaining eye contact.

Look at the Speaker


2. Don’t let the environment or other distractions get in the way of your listening.

Block Distractions


3. Stay focused and interested. Don’t allow yourself to become bored. Be inquisitive. Stay engaged. This is not the time to start planning what you want to say or to start planning your day!

Active Listening 3

This guy is not fooling anybody. The dog is being a better listener than he is!


4. Show you are listening with your own body language and responsiveness. Nodding your head or mirroring the emotions of the speaker assures the speaker that you are really listening.


Sad Disappointed

This guy shows empathy which proves he is listening


This guy is proving he is NOT listening!

This guy is proving he is NOT listening!


5. Give the speaker time to pause and gather their thoughts and continue. Don’t use every silence as a cue to jump in and start talking, however, it is okay to sometimes ask a question to clarify what is being said, or to paraphrase what the speaker is saying to make sure you understand correctly.

Active Listening 2


6. Postpone judgment. Our beliefs and assumptions about the world, the issues, and other people can often prevent us from really hearing what is being said because we get angry and start preparing a counter-argument in our head or judging the person and not even respecting what they have to say. While you may not agree with everything the speaker is saying, active listening means that you are working to understand what is being said, gain information, and broaden perspectives. You can respond later. For now, listen.

Getting Angry


7. Respond respectfully, appropriately, and honestly. Now that you are the speaker, treat the listener the way you want to be treated.


About the Author
Lori Michele Kelley

Lori has Master’s degree in TESL and has taught English and Intercultural Communication in the United States, Turkey, South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand. She also develops and conducts teacher development workshops for both pre- and in-service teachers. Riding pillion on backroads with her husband Michael Kelley in the tropics and wherever else there are good roadside coffee shops is one of her favorite things to do. She’s also quite fond of the water and made her husband promise they could live on a houseboat someday.