Active listening is a skilled and gently structured process that conveys your sincere interest in a person’s emotional state. Are you fully present, and truly hearing another person?
When listening, face the person directly, arms unfolded, and relax your posture. At the person’s eye level, maintain eye contact and present a friendly, facilitative facial expression. Ask open-ended questions (those requiring more than just a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’). As the speaker responds, observe accompanying gestures. Sense and process the person’s nuances in gestures, content, and feeling. Then paraphrase the person’s responses, linking and reflecting content with feelings. Check your comprehension by stating your simple understanding of the communication, and asking the speaker if you are correct.
Empathize with the speaker’s experience when possible, but don’t get sidetracked on your own history. You might expand this encounter into a practical helping role with this person (see Helping: A Process).
Consider serving as a volunteer listener with your local telephone crisis hotline. To prepare you, the organization will provide excellent whole-person training (including powerful role-play exercises) in the skills of active listening. These valuable skills personally benefit you, and widen interpersonal understanding in our world.