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Steps to Success » Listening Skills

Developing Active Listening Skills

In education, we often focus on developing a student’s speaking skills, but rarely do we focus enough on developing good listening skills. Communication is as much about listening as it is about speaking, and good communicators are not only excellent speakers but also active listeners. They are actively paying attention to the words being spoken, the tone of voice and the body language of the speaker to understand their feelings and true message.

I often encounter students who are brilliant speakers but who fail to listen to their classmates’ ideas and information about the task at hand. This can leave students lost and unable to retain what is being taught. Becoming an active listener is important in school and in life. A student who is an active listener can better absorb, understand and retain information. Actively listening can also minimise misunderstandings and make the listener a better communicator. Over time, active listening can boost concentration, focus and empathy.

To get your child to become an active listener, encourage them to follow these tips when listening:

Pay attention to the words of the speaker. What are they saying and what choice of words are they using? Are they negative or positive? What are they repeating and trying to emphasise?

Observe their body language and non-verbal cues. Are they frowning, smiling or looking nervous? Do they look enthusiastic or doubtful when they speak? Their actions will give further meaning to their words.

Make eye contact and nod. Show you’re listening by making eye contact and giving signs that you’re engaged. This encourages the speaker to speak openly and comfortably.

Ask questions. Good listeners ask relevant questions to show that they are listening and understanding what is being said. Try asking a question to confirm what you’ve understood so far. You can even ask insightful questions such as what their opinion or feeling is towards something.

Paraphrase and summarise. To make sure you’ve understood everything, try paraphrasing and summarising what they’ve said.

Be patient, wait and listen carefully. This allows you to digest all the information and gives you time to think and respond coherently. You also avoid interrupting someone when they are speaking, meaning they can get their message across.

Don’t jump to a conclusion. Often we assume we know what someone is talking about before they’ve finished speaking, leading to misunderstandings. By waiting until the speaker has finished talking, you avoid letting your preconceptions get in the way and you can fully appreciate what they have to say.

Joining a small-group tuition class with a focus on discussing ideas is a great way to improve all-round communication skills. At i-Learner, Global Speaking Passport, Critical Reading and Writing, Voyage and Discovery are great courses to work on these.