Active Listening

You listen actively when you paraphrase (repeat back in your own words) what you understand the message to be.

Divide the paraphrase into two parts:

  1. a paraphrase of the words
  2. a paraphrase of non-verbals – the meaning you discern from the speaker’s tone of voice, facial expression etc.

When do you use it?

  1. when the message is complicated.
  2. when the situation is highly emotional.

Why do we paraphrase/listen actively?

  1. It gets us closer to understanding the other person’s true intent
  2. It makes the other person feel listened to.

Try it. Find a partner. Choose one of the questions below. Answer the question in depth—it should take about five minutes. Your partner will take notes on what you say. He or she will then paraphrase your answer to the class—first your words then your nonverbals. You will tell us how accurate your partner was.

Next we’ll switch roles and you’ll get the chance to paraphrase. As you listen, take careful notes below.

  1. If you had the chance to live for 1000 years, but you would have to be extremely ugly the entire time, would you take the deal? Why or why not?
  2. Is it more difficult to be a man or a woman? Why?
  3. If you could choose the manner of your death what would it be? Why?
  4. Do you think the U.S. is really a democracy? Why or why not?
  5. Is there a caste system in this country? How does it affect us?