Active listening - this is how communication works

Reading time 6 minutes
Active listening - this is how communication works

With others it annoys you - with yourself you don't notice it. Instead of really listening, you want to rush in and talk about your own idea or opinion. But active listening is beneficial for both sides. It avoids misunderstandings and moves you and your conversation partner forward. Here's a simple explanation of active listening - as well as its goals and techniques.

Active listening - a definition

What is active listening? It's clear: You can only understand your counterpart if you listen to him or her properly. But what is the special thing about active listening?

Active listening is an essential component of communication. You notice this when you talk yourself and have the feeling that no one is really paying attention to you. However, if you listen actively, you show that you are paying attention - by nodding in agreement, perhaps even shaking your head, asking an interposed question, and other signals.
According to Carl Ransom Rogers, a U.S. psychologist and psychotherapist, active listening is composed of three elements:

  • an empathetic, open basic attitude,
  • an authentic and consistent appearance,
  • a positive and accepting attention.

When you master active listening, you don't just sit back passively and let the others talk. That only increases the risk that you will switch off. Instead, you remain attentive - and you show this with your facial expressions, gestures, and your verbal feedback.

Different ways of listening

Anyone who has the floor at the moment wants listeners who won't interrupt them - and still remain attentive. They should please listen properly, but how does that work? In a dialog with another person, it is noticeable when someone is not listening. In a larger group, it's harder to get a word in edgewise, but you can sit back comfortably. But is that a good thing? A look at the different types of listening will help you analyze your own communication.


Those who only pretend to listen nod and like to say "I understand" - but have switched off inside. The brief agreement is just a phrase. Some people only use it to introduce their own speech. Then it's the others' turn to listen.

Pseudo-listening has nothing to do with understanding and is disrespectful. Those who behave this way often do not allow opposing opinions to stand. They are not ready for any argumentation, and when someone else says something, they themselves do not listen.

The main problem is that pseudo-listeners often talk past each other. They feign understanding. This quickly leads to misunderstandings and makes successful dialog impossible.

active listening example

The receptive listening

In a longer speech, the other person listens "absorbingly" and remains silent. This may be related to the fact that the listener has no opinion of his own. Nevertheless, he is attentive and indicates this by exchanging glances with the speaker. Signals such as a slightly bent-over posture or nodding head show that the receptive listener is fully engaged.

The paraphrased listening

In paraphrased listening, the listener is asked to reproduce what has been said in his own words. In this way, an individual's speech becomes an active conversation. Paraphrasing is proof that the listener was attentive and understood all the essential points. The reproduction of the content can be followed by questions and an own evaluation. Initially, however, the focus is on understanding the views presented.

This type of listening helps you understand key points of the conversation. In professional life, paraphrased listening promotes the efficient communication, be it in a team meeting or in a face-to-face dialog.

Active listening

Active listening refers not only to the content of the conversation, but also to the emotions of the interlocutor. Thus, it increases paraphrased listening. In addition to the factual level comes the comprehensive understanding of the speaker. This leads to a correspondingly strong trust.

Advantages and goals of active listening

Active listening enables you to better approach your conversation partner. You can understand the argumentation well and continue the conversation purposefully. The understanding advantage is particularly important. Through open conversation and active listening, you avoid misinterpretations. In addition, you create a good basis of trust if you listen actively and argue intelligently.

The goal of active listening is, above all, to understand your counterpart correctly. This is an important point not only in professional life, but also in private life. Relationships. The pleasant atmosphere strengthens trust and makes it easier to adjust to the interlocutor.

Through active listening, you improve respectful interaction with other people. With your feedback, you can encourage them to take certain actions and in this way initiate solutions to problems. Further goals are your own behavioral correction and thus the personal development.

Signals for active listening

You listen well, but have the impression that your conversation partner doesn't notice? With your body language and verbal means you signal your attention:

  • Eye contact,
  • occasional notes,
  • Nod,
  • a short "yes" or similar approvals,
  • follow-up questions, if necessary,
  • to speak out before expressing one's own opinion.

Active listening according to the Rogers model

Active listening according to Rogers proceeds according to the listener model. Carl R. Rogers divides active listening in communication into four elements or steps.

  1. The first step refers to the PerceptionHere you perceive the statements of your counterpart. In addition to the content, i.e. the factual statement, you also pay attention to the body language and facial expressions.
  2. By Interpretation you interpret the statement for its value. In this way, you bring it into harmony with your own experiences.
  3. Now you run a Evaluation the content and emotional elements of the statement. Your personal values form the basis for which aspects you address.
  4. The fourth step is about your Reaction or around the Mirror. This is where you give an appropriate account of what has been said. In doing so, you focus on the points that you think are particularly important for continuing the conversation or for suitable solutions to initiate the process.

Active listening - techniques according to Carl R. Rogers

Rogers sees active listening as an important building block of understanding conversation. He is more concerned with the emotional content than with intellectual absorption. In other words, the heart is listening. One's own interpretations should not interfere with listening - instead, the focus is on the trusting relationship.

For the empathy Rogers initially relies on non-directive conversation. This means that you do not exert any pressure and do not influence your counterpart's attitude. In the best case, you bring your interlocutor to solve his problem himself - just by your active listening. Non-directive means that you participate and empathize - but without manipulating the other person.

Rogers' second "technique" is empathy, the ability to understand other people emotionally. When you are empathic, you experience the inner world of other people as your own world. Accordingly, your understanding and Acceptance. This way you can give the others enough time to express their feelings in To put into words. On this positive basic attitude a strong Relationship of trust.

Active listening as a leader: exercises and techniques

How do you imagine your audience? This question helps you to rethink your own communication behavior. If you can listen well, you will have an easier time in your private life and at work. With this ability, you have a better chance of success, because your conversation partners feel respected.

By learning active listening, you will learn your own Habits consciously. You don't get distracted so quickly and stay focused during the conversation. That way, you don't miss any details and can follow up if necessary.
It is important for managers to be responsive to employees. With the help of various exercises and communication techniques, you can improve your listening skills. However, you should not overdo the tips, but rather adapt them to your own personality and the situation. Forcing eye contact may irritate the person you are talking to, and nodding too often can seem unnatural.

Classic techniques for active listening as a leader:

  1. Make eye contact with your counterpart: This is how you signal attention and interest. Turning away or looking out of the window, on the other hand, are signs that you are distracted.
  2. As brief feedback, a nod or approvals such as "yes," "understand," or "agree" will suffice."
  3. By asking the right questions, you give your interviewer the opportunity to explain his thesis in more detail or to clarify the next steps.
  4. If necessary, you may ask directly if you have understood everything correctly.
  5. After a longer explanation, it helps to briefly summarize the content and express it in your own words. This helps to avoid misunderstandings.

Tips for active listening

Active listening is important in everyday work and in private life. With a Coaching you can familiarize yourself with the techniques and improve your leadership skills.

The free Career Workbook from Greator shows you suitable methods and exercises that promote your career. With these practical tips, you will be able to motivate your employees and overcome difficult phases. The right, active listening is not only important for your professional advancement: it also strengthens collegiality and trust. In this way, you stay in the flow and counteract the tough daily work routine and burnout.

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