Skip main navigation

Active Listening

Learn what "active listening" means and read some key tips on how to become a better active listener.
Illustration showing a person listening actively. Artwork: person's head and face shown in profile. Visual representation of a message or sound - a wavy line - flowing towards the person's cupped ear.

Once you’ve set your intentions, it’s time to pursue your strategy. But how can you be sure that your strategy is effective? You’ll need good information to make sure you’re on the right track, and one of the best methods to receive accurate information is Active Listening.

Active Listening is focused and aware listening without judgement.

Have you listened with focus? Do you comprehend the information that’s already been shared? Can you identify additional information needed for strategy and planning?

Active Listening is the ability to listen with a high degree of awareness and attention, while also communicating with empathy. It differs from listening merely to receive information (Passive Listening), listening only to give your opinion (Competitive Listening), and listening only to things that interest us (Selective Listening). When you actively listen, you comprehend information that has been shared and to identify what is missing.

Active Listening is achieved by integrating acts of reception, observation, comprehension, empathy, and perception during conversation. Once implemented, it promotes effective listening and allows the listener to have an honest look at the speaker’s motivations and expectations. Active Listening eliminates superficial commentary, automatic responses of little value and wandering distractions, ensuring that you will receive information in an impactful way.

Active Listening is essential for providing the information you need to think critically.

Tips for Active Listening

1. Begin with silence and attention

Let the other person speak without interrupting them. Stay focused and listen carefully to what’s being communicated to you. This will show that you’re willing to listen and increase your focus.

2. Use verbal and non-verbal encouragement

It’s good practice to use both verbal and nonverbal cues that let people know you’re listening. This encourages them to continue speaking. E.g. You can use words that emphasize what’s being said (“Tell me more”) and non-verbal cues (nodding, smiling, eye contact).

3. Suspend judgment

Avoid judging what’s being said or sharing your opinion right away. Doing this could create discomfort or misunderstanding for the person trying to communicate with you. You could lose valuable information by creating an unnecessary distraction.

4. Focus

Distractions should be avoided. Thinking about or doing something else will prevent you from fully understanding the message.

5. Rephrase

Rephrase what has been said with your own words. This will not only allow you to verify that you understood the message, but will also help you empathize further with the other person. When you rephrase the content, it gives the other person the opportunity to confirm what you understood correctly and what you didn’t.

Once you’ve actively listened and picked up the information you need, you can make sure that you’re operating with Clarity.

This article is from the free online

How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education