Active Listening

by Dr. Raymond Morris
The most valuable first skill necessary for healthy interpersonal communication is the ability to listen to and actually hear what the other person has to say. You may be surprised to find out how difficult active listening is.

The two most important aspects of communication or things to listen for are:
  1. The content or words utilized and which convey the meaning of what is being said, and
  2. The feelings expressed in association with the meaning.
It is important to try and pick up both the meaning and the feeling of what is being said.

There are some rules that will enable you to listen better.
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Don’t become defensive.
  • Don’t respond in anger or in any aggressive way. (Remember your task is to try and understand in the deepest way possible what the other person is trying to tell you)
  • Try to limit your questions. You will find that if you wait long enough, most of your questions will eventually be answered by the speaker.
  • Try not to talk people out of their feelings.

  • Sit forward. Look like you are interested in what is being said via your body position or posture.
  • Make eye contact but do not stare.
  • Wait till the other person finishes and try to mirror or feedback the meaning of what has been said and the feeling associated with the meaning. The speaker’s next statement will tell you whether or not if you have heard accurately.
  • Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it right the first time.
  • Try to leave your own preconceived thoughts and theories out of your listening and response.
When you follow these rules, you will be able to convey to the other person that you have listened and understand them. This will very likely facilitate further exploration and discussion by the other person. Ultimately you will both get to a point of understanding what the point of discussion is. Remember you might not like what you hear. You may personally disagree with it, but it only makes sense to really know and understand what the other person is saying and feeling before you attempt to resolve conflict, that is differences of opinion, or attempt to give advice.

1) Describe one Idea or Action that helps communication (use as much space as you need):

The first basic and primary communication skill involves active listening. Listening is a receptive skill that requires complete physical and mental openness in order to truly understand in the deepest way, what the other person is meaning and feeling. However, in order to know if you are hearing accurately and facilitate dialogue, you must let the other person know what you have heard and understand. So the second part of active listening involves feeding back what you have heard. There are do’s and don’ts that facilitate active listening. This skill is necessary in order to get to a point of mutual understanding after which continued dialogue may lead to a resolution of a problem. Sometimes just active listening is enough to satisfy a speakers needs.

2) For the Index of the Guide, what is a descriptive name for your Idea or Action (4 to 8 words to describe your Action):

Active Listening
3) Your name as you want to be referred to in the Guide, and 3 to 5 lines about your biography:

Dr. Raymond Morris, Registered Psychologist
Dr. Morris received his doctorate from the University of Toronto in 1973, worked at the Family Court Clinic of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry until 1986 when he entered full time private practice. His expertise is in the area of family break down and provides pre, post marital counseling, individual psychotherapy, custody and access assessments, mediation and family arbitration. He has taught at York University for 13 years and provided courses on communication, helping and interview skills to many organizations and professional groups.

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