Practice Active Listening

November 16, 2020

Practice Active Listening

In the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Professional Development workshop, Coming Together for Racial Understanding, we learn about and practice active listening. Active listening refers to a pattern of listening that keeps you engaged with your conversation partner in a positive way. It is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, withholding judgment and advice. Active listening serves the purpose of earning the trust of others and helping you to understand their situations.

Active listening comprises both a desire to comprehend as well as to offer support and empathy to the speaker. It differs from critical listening, in that you are not evaluating the message of the other person with the goal of offering your own opinion. Rather, the goal is simply for the other person to be heard, and perhaps to solve their own problems.

Active listening at work is particularly important if you are in a supervisory position or interact with colleagues. Active listening allows you to understand problems and collaborate to develop solutions. It also reflects your patience, a valuable skill in any workplace. Try this self-assessment from the Harvard Business School to think about how actively you listen and to identify areas for improvement.