man and woman talking over coffee

Rate this article and enter to win

When it comes to getting the most out of lectures, effective listening is a crucial skill to have. But when else do you need to be opening your ears?

In a recent Student Health 101 survey, 65 percent of students said they just want to be listened to during times of distress. Sometimes what people need most is the opportunity to talk. So how can you demonstrate that you’re really hearing what other people say?

Listen carefully

Active listening refers to the goal of truly understanding what someone says. Facilitating a conversation where the speaker feels heard is a crucial part of good communication. “You can tell when someone is [actually] listening to you and not just waiting for their turn to speak,” says Heather T., a second-year student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. “It allows for a more genuine conversation.”

sound waves and ear illustrationDean M., a student at University of Ontario Institute of Technology, suggests, “If you care about someone, show it.” Here are some basic techniques:

  1. Allow silence in conversation so the speaker has time to reflect.
  2. Ask open-ended questions. These lead to more descriptive answers rather than just a “yes” or “no.”
  3. Paraphrase the speaker’s words to show that you’re listening and to confirm that you understand what they are saying.
  4. Summarize the conversation. This again serves as validation for the speaker and an opportunity to clarify anything you’ve misunderstood.

What your body says

In our survey, many students ranked eye contact as the most important part of a conversation. Hilary S., a fourth-year student at the University of Guelph in Ontario, agrees that your body conveys your attentiveness. She says, “Showing that you’re listening has a lot to do with your body language.

Here are some body language tips:

  • Keep your posture open by uncrossing legs and arms.
  • Remove physical barriers between you and the speaker.
  • Lean toward the speaker (slightly) to display interest in what they are saying.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Nod silently to show agreement or encouragement.
  • Avoid looking at phone or device screens during the conversation.

Take this quiz to find out how good you are at reading body language

78% of students say it’s frustrating to talk to someone who is looking at their phone and that they feel like they aren’t being heard.Increase understanding

Effective communication combines welcoming body language with active listening skills. Practising these helps ensure that not only do the people you speak with feel heard, but also that you get the most from conversations.

“Make eye contact. Nod [to show] you agree or understand what they are saying, and offer input or questions to keep the conversation going.”
—Alex B., second-year graduate student, St. Clair College, Windsor, Ontario

Try out these active listening techniques in your next convo

ActionPurposeExamples
Nonverbal EncouragementLet the speaker know you’re listening without the need to interrupt.
Provide silent validation of the speaker’s feelings.
Leaning in
Maintaining eye contact
ClarificationConfirm the listener accurately understands what’s being said.
Offers the speaker an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings.
“It sounds like you’re feeling…”
“What I hear you saying is…”
“Am I understanding correctly?”
ParaphrasingDemonstrates careful listening without parroting back what the speaker said.
Allows the speaker to hear what they’ve said. This may prompt clarification.
“So what I think I hear you saying is…”
“I understand that…”
“It seems like you…”
SummarizingPulls together the discussion’s main ideas.
Creates a shared basis for future discussion and/or action.
“It sounds like the main issues are…”
“The things you would like to have happen are…”
Mount Royal Resources
GET HELP OR FIND OUT MORE

You must enter your name, email, and phone number so we can contact you if you're the winner of this month's drawing.
Your data will never be shared or sold to outside parties. View our Privacy Policy.

What was the most interesting thing you read in this article?

If you could change one thing about , what would it be?

HAVE YOU SEEN AT LEAST ONE THING IN THIS ISSUE THAT...

..you will apply to everyday life?

..caused you to get involved, ask for help,
utilize campus resources, or help a friend?

Tell us More
How can we get more people to read ?
First Name:

Last Name:

E-mail:

Phone Number:

What was the most interesting thing you read in this article?

If you could change one thing about , what would it be?

HAVE YOU SEEN AT LEAST ONE THING IN THIS ISSUE THAT...

..you will apply to everyday life?

..caused you to get involved, ask for help,
utilize campus resources, or help a friend?

Tell us more.
How can we get more people to read ?
First Name:

Last Name:

E-mail:

Phone Number:



HAVE YOU SEEN AT LEAST ONE THING IN THIS ISSUE THAT...

..you will apply to everyday life?

..caused you to get involved, ask for help,
utilize campus resources, or help a friend?

Tell us more.
How can we get more people to read ?

First Name:

Last Name:

E-mail:

Phone Number:



Article sources

Artze-Vega, I. (2012 October 1). Active listening: Seven ways to help students listen, not just hear. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/active-listening-seven-ways-to-improve-students-listening-skills/

Taft College. (n.d.). Active listening skills. Retrieved from http://www.taft.cc.ca.us/lrc/class/assignments/actlisten.html

University of Missouri. (n.d.). Attributes of good listening. Retrieved from http://web.missouri.edu/~campbellr/Leadership/chapter6.htm

The George Washington University. (n.d.). Organizational development & effectiveness, active listening. Retrieved from http://ode.hr.gwu.edu/active-listening

HelpGuide.org. (2018, October). Nonverbal communication. Retrieved from
https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/nonverbal-communication.htm/

U.S. Department of State. (n.d.). Active listening. Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/m/a/os/65759.htm