Active Listening: The Key to Communicating with Others

Active listening is a skill that can be acquired and developed through practice. However, it can be difficult to master, because you have to be patient and take time to develop it properly.

Active listening refers, as its name suggests, to listening actively and with full awareness. Therefore, active listening is not to hear the other person, but to be totally focused on the message that the other individual is trying to communicate.

Active listening: listening and understanding communication from the speaker’s point of view

Although it may seem that listening actively is an easy task, this type of listening requires an effort of our cognitive and empathic abilities. Knowing how to listen is very important in communication, and although it may not seem like it, on many occasions we spend a lot of time waiting for what we think and what we say instead of actively listening to the other.

Active listening is not listening passively, but refers to the ability to listen not only what the person is expressing directly, but also the feelings, ideas or thoughts that underlie what you are trying to express. In active listening, empathy is important to be placed in the place of the other, but also emotional validation, acceptance and feedback, because it must be heard without judgment and it is necessary to communicate to the other person that has been understood. Therefore, there are two elements that facilitate active listening, are the following:

Psychological disposition: internal preparation is important, be in the present moment, pay constant attention and observe the other: identify the content of what he says, the objectives and feelings.

Expression that is being listened to the other interlocutor with verbal communication, in what is known as the phatic function of language (I see, umm, uh, etc.) and nonverbal language (eye contact, gestures, body tilt, etc.).

What not to do in active listening

Below we review some errors that can occur when listening to the other person:

  • Distracted during the conversation
  • Interrupting the speaker
  • Judge it and want to impose your ideas
  • Offer help prematurely and with lack of information
  • Reject and not validate what the other is feeling
  • Disqualify by giving your opinion
  • Tell your own story instead of listening

Signals that indicate the correct active listening

There are several signs that show the other person that you are actively listening. Below are the verbal and nonverbal signals of active listening, so you can be able to adapt your communicative style towards a better understanding and understanding of your interlocutor.

1. Non-verbal signals

People who actively listen often show the following nonverbal cues:

Eye contact

The eye contact shows the other person that he is paying attention to what he says and feels and, in addition, can show sincerity. Combining visual contact with other verbal and non-verbal cues shows interest in what the other person is expressing.

Light smile

This assures the interlocutor that the information that he / she is transmitting is being well received and what motivates him / her to keep talking. Therefore, it acts as a reinforcer, in addition to giving a message of empathy.

Receptive body posture

The position gives information of the sender and receiver in the communication process. The active listening person tends to lean slightly forward or sideways while sitting.


The automatic reflection or mirroring of any facial expression of the speaker can be a sign of attentive listening. These expressive gestures seem to indicate sympathy and empathy in emotional situations. On the contrary, the conscious imitation of facial gestures (not automatic) seems to be a sign of inattention.

No distraction

The active listener is not going to be distracted, because his attention is placed on the verbal and non-verbal signals that he emits in the listener.

2. Verbal signs

Issue reinforcing words or compliments

This type of verbalization reinforces the speech of the speaker by conveying that one validates his point of view. Phrases like “you did it very well”, “I like it when you are sincere” or “you must be very good at playing football”, show attention on the part of the person who listens. Although these phrases can be positive, do not use them too much, they can distract the sender.


Paraphrasing refers to verifying or expressing in your own words what the speaker seems to have just said. In this way, it is possible that the sender informs the receiver if the latter has understood the message well. An example of paraphrasing can be: “Do you mean you felt this way …?”.


A person who masters the skill of active listening usually summarizes what the other interlocutor just communicated. This helps make it clear that you understand the point of view of the other before exposing your own.

Ask questions

The listener can show that they have been attentive when asking relevant questions. In this way you can clarify the information you have received and show interest in what the sender is trying to communicate.


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