Active listening may not per se solve the problem, but can be an initial step. With active listening we can help speaker to raise awareness on the problem. Further this kind of communication can help establish emotionally safe environment that motivate a person to further seek help, search solutions and resolve problems.

Active listening steps:

  • Show full attention: While the other person speaks, show complete attention and interest with your verbal or nonverbal communication, such as nodding, smiling, giving small comments, establishing eye contacts, and leaning towards the speaker.
  • Restrain the urge to initially react: Do not interrupt the speaker in order to finish speaker’s sentences, give opinion or advice on the content. During listening phase, temporarily release your mind from judging, assuming, or thinking what the speaker is going to say.
  • Paraphrase: Use your own words to paraphrase what has been said. Paraphrasing gives the opportunity to clarify what has been said, allow a speaker to re-think about own words and is a way to guide conversation without being too intrusive. Paraphrases must not deviate much from original content, as distant interpretations are disturbing.
  • Questions: Ask questions to clarify content, especially if you think that speaker would not reveal enough information otherwise. Try to use open questions and avoid ‘Why?’ when actively listening.
  • Reflection: If you feel that difficult emotions need to be acknowledged, than reflect speakers’ feelings. Use your empathy and read speakers’ nonverbal signs to express emotions behind what had been said. At any cost do not show any signs of judgment on the feeling expressed.

By Maja Lebenicnik, University of Primorska Slovenia