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Essay about Active Listening in Effective Communication

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Listening is a skill that requires active, rather than passive, participation to advance shared understanding and minimise misinterpretation. Lang, Floyd and Beine (2000) describe active listening as a skill that ‘focuses on attending to patients’ clues, ie, utterances and/or behaviors that are not explicit but may have special meaning and suggest unshared ideas, concerns, and expectations’. This essay will discuss how active listening strategies such as analysing and displaying non-verbal body language, clarifying meaning and accuracy, expressing understanding for the speaker’s feelings through empathy and silence contribute to effective communication by encouraging the speaker to convey his or her thoughts, building trust and relationships and by minimising misinterpretation between sender and receiver.

Active listening is as much a visual activity as it is an auditory activity (Eunson 2008: 313). Non-verbal body language such as eye contact and body positioning allows the listener to fully understand the point that the speaker communicating while, for the listener, displaying positive messages through these channels lets the speaker know that there is interest and attention is being given to what is being said. Simon Armson illustrated this point when he said ‘If you listen to everything that you hear, not just the words, but what’s going on around them, you get a much richer picture’ (cited in Theobald & Cooper 2004: 103). Non-verbal signals such as eye contact, mirroring the speaker’s mannerisms, facing the speaker with an open body posture and nodding are gestures that are used unconsciously when a person is interested in what they are hearing (Theobald & Cooper 2004: 105 -106). When used consciously, these gestur...


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..., DT 2009, The basics of communication: a relational perspective, Sage Publications, Canada.
Eunson, B 2008, Communicating in the 21st century, 2nd edn, Wiley, Milton.
Rogers, CR & Farson, RE 1987, ‘Active listening’, Global Effectiveness Training, viewed 25 March 2011, < http://www.go-get.org/pdf/Rogers_Farson.pdf>.
Theobald, T & Cooper, CL 2004, Shut up and listen!: the truth about how to communicate at work, Kogan Page, London ; Sterling, VA.
West, R & Turner, L 2009, Understanding interpersonal communication: making choices in changing times, 2nd edn, Wadsworth Cengage Learning, Boston.
Lang, F, Floyd, MR & Beine, KL 2000, ‘Clues to patients’ explanations and concerns about their illnesses: a call for active listening’, Archives of Family Medicine, vol. 9, March 2000, pp. 222 – 227, viewed 27 March 2011, .


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