CPD - what is meant by active listening?

CPD - what is meant by active listening?

15 Mar 2023

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Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you feel their attention is somewhere else? Whether socially or in the workplace, we all want to feel that the person we are communicating with understands us and is taking an interest in what we are saying. The following CPD article will look at what active listening is and why it is a vital communication tool to learn.

What is Active Listening?

In 1957, psychologists Carl Rogers and Richard Farson conceived the concept of ‘Active Listening’. It can be defined as a form of listening that “requires that we get inside the speaker, that we grasp, from his point of view, just what it is he is communicating to us.” Later on, the definition of active listening was simplified to ‘the activity of paying attention to and trying to get meaning from something we hear’.

In other words, it’s more than just technically hearing. It is actively involving ourselves so the person communicating to us knows that we understand what they are trying to communicate.

How does active listening help in communication?

Active Listening is an essential tool that we have all used. If the communicator is saying something that is important to them, they want to feel valued and for people to intentionally listen to what they say rather than casually hearing. This reassures them that they are being listened to, and that the listener is interested and understands what they are communicating. 

The communicator knowing that you understand them, brings trust to the relationship. This can help alleviate discrepancies in important information being conveyed. It’s particularly vital in mediation, so the ‘middle man’ truly understands each side. There are a number of ways by which we can ensure that the other person knows you are listening. These can include the following:

Pay attention

  • Focus on the intent and purpose of the conversation.
  • Give the speaker all of your attention, put down your phone.
  • Look at the speaker directly, make eye contact
  • Look at the speaker’s body language and non-verbal communication, what does it say to you?
  • Ensure the conversation is happening in a location devoid of environmental distractions.
  • If you are in a work environment, it may be appropriate to take notes.
Ways to improve your active listening

Show that you are listening

  • Smile and nod. As simple as it sounds, it’s an acknowledgment that you are giving the speaker your attention.
  • Ensure your body language is open and inviting.
  • Verbally acknowledge them by using ‘OK’ and ‘Yes’ at intervals. This will encourage the speaker to continue.

Provide feedback

  • To show that you understand the speaker, paraphrase or summarize what they have told you. ‘So what you’re saying is’. Put what they have said into your own words. They will then have the opportunity to confirm what they mean to overcome any possible confusion.
  • If you need clarification on a point, ask for it but don’t interrupt so the speaker goes off topic.

Defer judgement 

  • Let the speaker finish, do not counter argue or interrupt them while they are speaking.
  • Take personal judgements out of the equation. Our personal beliefs can distort our understanding of a topic.

Respond Appropriately 

  • Wait until the speaker has finished, before you respond. You will have gained their insight and their perspective. It may be different to yours so it imperative that you treat this person in the same manner you would like to be treated.
  • Be honest but respectful with how you respond. They have taken the time to share information with you.

Why is active listening important?

In our modern transient world, there are so many distractions that can intrude on important conversations in work and socially. While active listening has its roots in parenting strategies, it is an important mechanism that we can use in many aspects of life, including business and conflict resolution.

Work: Active Listening builds trust and stronger relationships. In the work environment, it is important that there is assurance among teams. Listening actively encourages team building as team members will feel they are valid and they are being heard. By not interrupting and or criticizing a person’s opinion, the speaker is more likely to give honest opinions as they will feel they are in a safe space.

For managers, active listening is valuable as it encourages greater collaboration amongst teams. It will make the speaker more comfortable sharing information, allowing their ideas to be heard and in turn it will increase knowledge. Missing critical information can also be avoided this way.

Importance of good active listening skills

Conflict Resolution: Active Listening will help you gain a deeper understanding of issues. How many times have we heard that there are two sides to the story? Whether a playground dispute, a business or government negotiation, people can misunderstand each other. This may be due to cultural differences, the words people use to express themselves or different viewpoints. The ability to actively listen to both sides, and see where the differences lie are the first step to finding a middle ground.

Relationships: Whether it’s a relationship with a loved one or meeting new people. Active Listening shows that the speaker, to you, is the most important person in the room. It allows you to show that you can understand people and show empathy. It can show new people that you are interested in what they say which makes it more likely that the person speaks to you for longer.

Can I learn active listening?

Active listening is a skill and like any other, can be learned and practiced as part of an individual’s personal or Continuing Professional Development (CPD). When learning a new skill, it’s a good idea to remove any of these distractions so you can solely focus on the topic at hand. Undertaking a CPD course on active listening is a great way to ensure you are shown the basics and can identify what areas you need to improve in. You can then build on what you have learned until you master this vital communication skill.

Within the CPD Courses Catalogue, there are a wide number of different training courses, events, e-learning programs, conferences, workshops and seminars that can help you to improve your active listening abilities. All the accredited providers, courses and training on our website has been recognised and approved as meeting any further learning standards and benchmarks.

Become a CPD accredited training provider

We hope this article was helpful. Established in 1996, The CPD Certification Service is the world’s leading and largest CPD accreditation organisation working across all industry sectors. If you are looking to provide training courses or events that may be suitable for Continuing Professional Development, please contact our team to discuss in more detail.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a free online CPD record tool to help manage, track and log your ongoing learning, as well as store your professional training records and attendance certificates in one simple place, go to the myCPD Portal page.

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