Active Listening

Essay by tattvaUniversity, Bachelor's January 2003

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Listening is a natural activity. We all listen a great deal. If we measured importance by the time we spend on an activity, then listening would be our most important activity, as it occupies more time than any other communication activity. However, many people are poor listeners, even in everyday life. They tend to listen and think about something else at the same time. Rather than carefully attending to what the other person has said, many people think about their response while the other person is talking.

During our Interpersonal and Small Group Communication two-day seminar, we did many exercises that made ourselves very aware of our ability to hear, and at the same time, our inability to listen. The seminar helped me to identify the errors that take place during each of the five steps that describe the process of listening, namely receiving, understanding, remembering, evaluating and responding.


Listening begins with receiving the message the speaker sends. Hearing also ends with this first step, when your ears are open to some form of auditory stimuli. I can hear people car-cading because the football team they support has won a match, but I am certainly not listening to it. When listening you receive both verbal and non-verbal messages, the words as well as the gestures and facial expressions amongst other things.

During the seminar, we performed an exercise in which we split into groups of three, with one person only talking, one person only listening and the third person observing. When playing the part of the listener, not being able to talk gave me the opportunity to realise what a lot of non-verbal messages are involved when a person is trying to communicate something. This was even more noticeable in the exercise, as we were told to talk...