How to be an Active Listener to Understand Others

According to Julian Treasure, a leading expert on sound and communication, “listening is our access to understanding.” Without actively listening to someone we can never understand where they are coming from. Treasure uses a simple acronym, RASA, to relay his steps for active listening. RASA stands for: Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, Ask. So maybe you feel like me, that active listening is rare. But it has never been more needed in today’s world so I’m sharing how to be an active listener to improve relationships and your own communication!

So What is Active Listening?

Active listening is the process of listening attentively when engaged in a conversation with another person. So you listen, paraphrase and reflect. Most importantly you do not judge, give advice, or share a story. When active listening is used in a conversation, the other person feels seen, heard, and valued.

Characteristics of Active Listening

There are unique characteristics of Active Listening. When we practice active listening, we are fully concentrating using all of our senses with full attention to the other person speaking. 

  • Neutral and nonjudgmental
  • Patient (silence is okay!)
  • Verbal and nonverbal cues (e.g., learning in, smiling, and eye contact)
  • Asking questions for clarification
  • Reflecting and summarizing on what is said

You should be a sounding board rather than being ready to jump in with our own ideas and opinions.

The Purpose of Active Listening

When we use active listening, we are gaining the trust of others while helping to better understand their situations. When we are able to comprehend what is being said, there is a desire to offer support and empathy to the other person. Additionally, establishing the habit of active listening can have positive impacts on relationships, work environments, and other social situations. 

Take Away

Practicing active listening during a conversation offers the feeling of being seen, heard, and valued. According to Treasure, “We teach our children how to read and write, but not how to speak and listen. Conscious listening is rare, and never has it been more needed in the world; at the same time, millions miss out on the potential of the amazing instrument we all play – the human voice – and struggle to speak powerfully”. 

It is time to learn and practice the skill of active listening. Not only do we owe our full attention to others when we communicate, but because the positive emotions of a truly good conversation can help us find positive meaning in life and relationships.


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