Active Listening In Effective Communication Essay

1253 words - 5 pages

Listening is a skill that requires active, rather than passive, participation to advance shared understanding and minimise misinterpretation. Lang, Floyd and Beine (2000) describe active listening as a skill that ‘focuses on attending to patients’ clues, ie, utterances and/or behaviors that are not explicit but may have special meaning and suggest unshared ideas, concerns, and expectations’. This essay will discuss how active listening strategies such as analysing and displaying non-verbal body language, clarifying meaning and accuracy, expressing understanding for the speaker’s feelings through empathy and silence contribute to effective communication by encouraging the speaker to convey his or her thoughts, building trust and relationships and by minimising misinterpretation between sender and receiver.

Active listening is as much a visual activity as it is an auditory activity (Eunson 2008: 313). Non-verbal body language such as eye contact and body positioning allows the listener to fully understand the point that the speaker communicating while, for the listener, displaying positive messages through these channels lets the speaker know that there is interest and attention is being given to what is being said. Simon Armson illustrated this point when he said ‘If you listen to everything that you hear, not just the words, but what’s going on around them, you get a much richer picture’ (cited in Theobald & Cooper 2004: 103). Non-verbal signals such as eye contact, mirroring the speaker’s mannerisms, facing the speaker with an open body posture and nodding are gestures that are used unconsciously when a person is interested in what they are hearing (Theobald & Cooper 2004: 105 -106). When used consciously, these gestures can purposefully demonstrate interest to the speaker encouraging the speaker to continue. (Theobald & Cooper 2004: 105). As the speaker continues more information is given. The listener is then able to collect the verbal and non-verbal data to gain a better understanding of what is being communicated (Eunson 2008: 310).

In addition to non-verbal body language, clarify meaning and accuracy assists the listener to gain an understanding of what is being said and also helps to minimise misinterpretation. Misinterpretation occurs when a message is not understood as the sender had intended (Duck & McMahan 2009: 18). Carl Rogers advises that ‘a good rule of thumb is to assume that you never really understand until you can communicate this understanding to the others satisfaction’ (1987). Clarifying meaning and accuracy can be achieved in numerous ways including asking questions and paraphrasing. Paraphrasing allows the listener to check the accuracy of their interpretation of the speaker’s meaning by restating what has been said in their own words (Turner & West 2009: 208 and DeVito 2011: 66). This can also help the listener gain the full picture as paraphrasing often encourages the speaker to extend on what has...

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