Updated: Apr 13
Active listening is about more than simply hearing a child but rather it is a way of listening, responding and showing a mutual understanding of what has been said. When we actively listen to a person we must see things from their point of view and more than this we must show them we are seeing things from their point of view. Truly listening to a person makes them feel worthy, appreciated and respected.
Active listening requires that the listener understand entirely what is being communicated to them. In order to do this there are certain skills that must be mastered. Firstly you must be able to listen for total meaning. It may be easy to hear the words said and interpret the literal meaning, what is slightly more challenging is to listen for the feelings, attitude and true intent behind what is being said. As a listener if you respond only to the words said and do not acknowledge the feelings behind those words then you show that you have not truly heard at all.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian undertook research which concluded that only 7% of what we communicate is done through the words we say, whether or not his findings were completely accurate, the fact is that a large amount of what we communicate is done via our tone of voice and our body language, as an active listener you must learn to be in tune to these things.
Listening and hearing are something that people do naturally in everyday life however there are significant differences between listening and active listening that make it substantially more rewarding. When a child feels truly listened to and understood it establishes rapport and encourages trust between them and the adult. The more closely you listen to someone the better the understanding that you have of them. It also makes the speaker feel valued and therefore willing to speak further. When a child feels accepted and understood they may be able to speak in greater depth than they may otherwise have done. When people are listened to sensitively then they are more able to listen to themselves and are in turn able to more clearly understand and convey what they think and feel.
Active listening can also help to bridge differences; when you listen carefully to someone they can help you to better understand them and their life. A child can also be helped to take some responsibility for their problems through active listening as it can help reduce their defensiveness and an experienced listener may be able to successfully challenge them at appropriate moments in order to them assume some responsibility.