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Active listening

Good listening is an essential part of effective communication. We have conversations all the time, but we don’t always listen as well as we could. Sometimes we’re distracted when talking to someone and we’re only half-listening. We can be distracted by our phones, what’s on TV or our own thoughts. This can lead to misunderstandings and the other person believing that we’re dismissing their feelings and opinions.


What is active listening?

Active listening is carefully listening to someone, observing non-verbal cues, and reflecting back what is being said without any judgment.

By actively listening, you are showing the person that you’re making a conscious effort to understand what they are saying.

Actively listening and paying attention to others can lead to better communication and improve mutual understanding.


Tips for good active listening 

Here are some tips to get started with active listening:

  • Put aside anything that will distract you
  • Try to relax and set a comfortable tone
  • Look at the person and give them your undivided attention
  • Nod and give positive prompts such as ‘I see’ and ‘uh-huh’ to show the person you are engaged
  • Allow the person to finish each point before asking any questions
  • Ask relevant questions. You can ask open questions that begin with who, what, where or when. These types of questions can encourage the person to continue the conversation
  • Ask for clarification if the person says something you don’t understand. For example, ‘What do you mean when you say…’ or ‘Is this what you mean…’
  • Periodically, try to summarise or paraphrase what they are saying and how they feel. For example, ‘If I’m hearing you correctly…’ or ‘The thing you feel most important is…’
  • Defer any judgement and try not to leap into a solution straight away
  • If your mind wanders, admit it and apologise.

Active listening will signal to the person you are listening and are interested in what they are saying. Active listening is a skill that can improve with practice.


If you’re struggling to cope, it’s essential to talk about your feelings and ask for help. The first and often hardest step is acknowledging there is a problem and asking for help. Reach out to friends, family, your GP, or a trusted health professional. You can also phone CAREinMIND on 1300 096 269 to speak to a counsellor.


The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.