BLP A-Z of Learning English: A – Active Listening

BLP A-Z of Learning English: A – Active Listening

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Karen Thorley

A – Active Listening

Active listening is a very useful and increasingly necessary communication skill which, in our new, highly technological world where artificial intelligence and big data are strong tendencies, emotional intelligence is fighting back with the human side of communication and relationships, (the sharing of feelings, intentions, experiences et..) and this is where active listening is more and more useful and appreciated in both professional and personal contexts.

So, what is active listening?

In a very simple answer, it’s about REALLY listening to the other person

What does that mean? Well we all know how it feels when someone isn’t listening to us, or is only half listening… So when you are listening to another person, you need to focus on them and pay attention to what they are saying, then you should be able to explain what they have said back to them accurately. (Not that it is necessary, but you should be able to). It’s the ability to react, to show real interest and to be able to describe their experiences, feelings, opinions etc,  correctly, so that they say “Yes, that’s exactly what I mean, felt, did…etc…”

How do we do this?

  1. Focus on what the other person is saying (avoid distractions) and show interest, empathize with them and react with body language (eye-contact, nodding, raising eye-brows, leaning forward etc.) and expressions such as: Really? Did you? Have they? I didn’t know that, how interesting, that’s amazing, what a shame…etc..
  2. Showing interest by asking exploratory questions for more information such as: Where/when exactly this this happen? How come? What happened then? What did they say? How did he react? I’m so pleased for you…
  3. Reformulation – To show interest and clarify with expressions like: So you’re saying…/ What you’re saying is…/So, basically…./If I understand correctly…/ Correct me if I’m wrong …/ So you felt…
  4. Clarification – If you don’t follow what they’re saying, if you get lost, or need more information, say so….. but….

    Wait as much as possible, try to interrupt as little as possible, let the other person finish speaking before you speak; what they are saying is important to them ! If necessary go back and clarify later; only interrupt if you are totally lost or there is too much information to handle effectively. Then you can interrupt by asking for permission: May I interrupt a second? / I’m so sorry to interrupt you, but could you just go back to the bit about,..?/ Would you mind repeating what you said about…?/  I didn’t quite catch what you said about… /I’m afraid I’m getting a bit lost…
  5. Remain neutral and non-judgemental (avoid biases and prejudices) and only provide your own input if it is relevant and if the other person really wants to hear you. Remember this is about providing listening to another person, it’s not about your speaking skills. So your focus is on the other person, not you !
    I quite understand / Yes that’s clear / Really, tell me more../ Would you like to hear my experience, opinion etc../ Yes I know…


In my experience the 3 main obstacles are:

  1. Exercising patience
  2. Focusing
  3. Setting prejudices and biases to one side

If you can put these simple recommendations into practice  you will find that people confide in you more and will want to speak with you more and your relationships will grow, both personally and professionally.

BLP provides specific Active Listening practice in the form of a workshop. Please contact us for more details

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