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Effective communication in the workplace
Effective communication in the workplace

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2 What is active listening?

Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. The phrase ‘active listening’ was first used by Rogers and Farson (2015) in the 1950s. They describe it as follows:

It is called ‘active’ because the listener has a very definite responsibility. He does not passively absorb the words which are spoken to him. He actively tries to grasp the facts and the feelings in what he hears, and he tries, by his listening, to help the speaker work out his own problems.

(Rogers and Farson, 2015)

A photograph of two colleagues talking to each other.
Figure 2 An example of active listening.

Since the term was first coined, it has been adapted and there are now many variations of it.

In this course, you’re going to focus on five key behaviours and actions that will help you to actively listen:

  1. focus fully on the speaker
  2. avoid interrupting
  3. show interest
  4. avoid appearing judgemental
  5. provide feedback.