Active Listening

One useful strategy is active listening. This requires careful attention to what the speaker is saying verbally and nonverbally. Once the speaker has finished, the listener rephrases what was said to receive verification or clarification of the message.

I used this for years while I was teaching without knowing there was an official name for it. Although I hear very well, I do not process the information well unless I am paying close attention. In my class, I had a standing rule that students had to get my attention before speaking to me. To do it any other way risked total lack of comprehension. Most students respected that rule, but there were those who still blurted out questions and comments while I was engaged in something else. Whenever that happened, I repeated back to the student exactly what I heard them say, which rarely had little to do with the actual comment.

Somehow, my brain misinterpreted comments like “I need to go to the restroom” as “I read alone in my bedroom.” By using active listening techniques, I received the corrected message and more than a few laughs when what I misheard involved elephants, turkeys, or other totally off-topic things.

I’m not teaching elementary these days, but I still use active listening. If someone is telling me something complex or if I’m receiving instructions verbally, I’ll repeat back what I understand. This way, I make sure that what the person said and what I heard amounts to the same thing.

Active Listening Steps:

  1. Listen the first time.
  2. If you didn’t hear what was said, kindly ask the speaker to repeat.
  3. Rephrase what you think you heard.
  4. Allow the speaker to correct you if what you heard was incorrect.

Active listening is a little like a checksum in a data transfer. If the numbers don’t match, something went wrong. Try again.

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2 thoughts on “Active Listening

  1. This is a great lesson for everyone. If a person can remember those steps, they will eventually strengthen their auditory skills. When I taught school, I had my students repeat what I asked them to do. My students had very different strengths, so I had to find each child’s strength. I taught every subject using tactile, auditory and visual stimulation.

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