Active, effective listening is a habit, as well as the foundation of effective communication.
Active listening intentionally focuses on who you are listening to, whether in a group or one-on-one, in order to understand what he or she is saying. As the listener, you should then be able to repeat back in your own words what they have said to their satisfaction. This does not mean you agree with, but rather understand, what they are saying.
What affects listening?
What do you think of the subject matter? Is it new or have you a lot of experience with it? Will it be difficult to understand, or simple? Is it important to you, or just fun?
Is the speakerexperienced or nervous? What are the non-verbal cues of the speaker? What frame of mind is he or she? How personable, threatening, intelligent, etc.?
Is the message illustrated with with visuals or examples? Is technology used effectively? Are concepts introduced incrementally, or with examples?
Is the spaceconducive to listening? or to interaction or exchange with the speaker? Are there avoidable distractions?
Described above are the external factors. Now:what about you, the center, the listener?
Focus your attention on the subject Stop all non-relevant activities beforehand to orient yourself to the speaker or the topic
Review mentally what you already know about the subject Organize in advance relevant material in order to develop it further (previous lectures, TV programs, newspaper articles, web sites, prior real life experience, etc.)
Avoid distractions Seat yourself appropriately close to the speaker Avoid distractions (a window, a talkative neighbor, noise, etc.)
Acknowledge any emotional state Suspend emotions until later, or Passively participate unless you can control your emotions
Set aside your prejudices, your opinions You are present to learn what the speaker has to say, not the other way around
Be other-directed; focus on the person communicating Follow and understand the speaker as if you were walking in their shoes Listen with your ears but also with your eyes and other senses
Be aware: non-verbally acknowledge points in the speech Let the argument or presentation run its course Don't agree or disagree, but encourage the train of thought
Be involved: Actively respond to questions and directions Use your body position (e.g. lean forward) and attention to encourage the speaker and signal your interest
Follow up activities
Give the speaker time and space for rest after talkingExpress appreciationfor the sharing to build trust and encourage dialogue Check if you have understood
Restate key points to affirm your understanding & build dialogue
Summarize key points to affirm your understanding & build dialogue
Ask (non-threatening) questions to build understanding
Reflect on your experience to demonstrate your interest (feedback)
Interpret after you feel you have grasped content
Apply what you have learned to a new situation
In a group/audience
Give the speaker space to regroup, to debrief after talkingDuring Q & A
If posing a question
Quickly express appreciation
Briefly summarize a preliminary point
Ask the relevant question
If making a point
Quickly express appreciation
Briefly restate the relevant idea as presented
State your idea, interpretation, reflection
Invite a response
Get contact information for later reference
Invite friends/colleagues/etc. for discussion afterward
Write out a summary with questions for further review