Active and Non-Active listening

Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others. It focuses attention on the speaker. Active listening is intent to “listen for meaning”.

We may ‘sit back’ and listen to a song sung by a little girl or to the music on a radio broadcast, but when we are to take part in communication, it is necessary to ‘sit up’ and listen carefully. It would be improper to think about how we get other people to listen to us, but it would be certainly advisable to think about how we can get ourselves to listen to others patiently and carefully because half-listening is likely to result in misunderstanding and loss of time. This is called active listening. The listener, who asked questions and comments on the views of the speaker, encourages the speaker to express his ideas fully and enthusiastically.

While listening, it is essential to concentrate on what a person is saying, but it would be wrong to neglect his ‘looks’ because his ‘looks’ can supply us with physical and non-verbal signs. Though non -verbal signs give us reliable information, the listener should not be carried away with the thoughts on the physical appearance of the speaker. The listener must understand properly the feelings and sentiments of the speaker. Usually we listen with interest the message, which is to our advantage, but we should take equal interest in the speeches, which consist of a message to the advantage of the speaker.

When it is possible to hear a message clearly without any physical distraction, the listener must become active in attending the message. If noises interfere with the physical reception of the message, the listener has to prepare his mind to concentrate on the selected signals and should not allow himself to be distracted by the noises. In such situation, a good listener has to exercise a good deal of mental discipline over himself in order to concentrate properly on the message being transmitted by the speaker. A careful listener never jumps to conclusions about what the speaker says till the latter completes his message.

The non- active listeners are poor listeners who remember the specific facts presented by the speaker and tend to forget the central idea. The tired, bored and lazy listeners may pretend to be attentive by their postures as they usually rest their chin on hand or bend forward in the chair or show that they really pay attention to the talk, but in fact, they may get occupied with some other thoughts. They may drift away in pondering over their personal problems and worries.

Some of the listeners pretend to listen as they make notes, read mail and do other petty routine activities. But, effective listening should not be considered as an easy and passive encounter. The non-active listener sometimes avoids the message if he feels it difficult to be understood or too hard to be followed. The listener requires mental preparedness and energy to concentrate on the message and on the non-verbal communication like body movement, postures, gestures, etc.

Active Listening encompass three major important points:

1. Purpose

When interacting, people often are not listening attentively to one another. They may be distracted, thinking about other things, or thinking about what they are going to say next, (the latter case is particularly true in conflict situations or disagreements).

Suspending one’s own frame of reference and suspending judgment are important in order to attend fully to the speaker.

2. Tactics

It is important to observe the other person’s behaviour and body language. Having the ability to interpret a person’s body language allows the listener to develop a more accurate understanding of the speaker’ swords. Having heard, the listener may then paraphrase the speaker’s words.

It is important to note that the listener is not necessarily agreeing with the speaker — simply stating what was said. In emotionally charged communications, the listener may listen for feelings. Thus, rather than merely repeating what the speaker has said, the active listener might describe the underlying emotion.

3. Use

Active listening is used in a wide variety of situations, including tutoring, medical workers talking to patients, HIV counselling, helping suicidal persons, management, counselling and journalistic settings. In groups, it may aid in reaching consensus. It may also be used in casual conversation to build understanding, though this can be interpreted as condescending


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