Active and Passive Listening Are a Part of Communicating Effectively

Active and passive listening are two sides of the same coin. A passive listener is someone who attends a concert and enjoys the entertainment. An active listener is when two people are talking such as in a coaching session or a counseling session when two people all working together.

If the message is factual, then your purpose is to listen for the details. If the being entertained then you are relaxed and listening for the enjoyment of the show you’re watching. If you are listening to a politician and his purpose is to persuade you to his point of view then you respond analytically.

People tend to filter out and change the meaning of 70% of what they actually hear in all communication. As you can see we listen differently in different situations.

Types of Listening

There are 3 types of listening

  1. Passive Listening
  2. Active Listening
  3. Hearing

To communicate more effectively, you want to use the listening approach that is most appropriate to the environment or your message. When choosing a listening approach, we usually attentive to our motivation for listening, but we pay less attention to the motivations of the speaker. This is, however, crucial information for effective communication.

There are four common goals that might motivate a speaker
1. To persuade: to converse the listener about an idea or course of action.
2. To inform: to convey information and ideas
3. To self-express: to share personal feelings, values, and experiences
4. To please: to entertain, comfort, or bring enjoyment to another person

What is Passive LIstening

When a person is practicing passive listening, he is sitting quietly without responding to what the speaker is saying. When you listen to music or a podcast or even the news, you are practicing passive listening.

Passive listening is the listening where a person although listen to the others but not with full attention, he often distracts himself from the ongoing discussion. He is sitting quietly without responding to what speaker is saying. A common example of passive listening is listening to music or radio when you are doing something. In this scenario, although the music is running listener is paying full attention to other work. To get engaged with speaker, quite often passive listening may require a few open-ended replies from the listeners, however, this technique requires focused concentration and minimal verbal feedback from the listener. Passive listening occurs when the listener has low self-motivation level, low engagement and avoids responsibility for learning and problem-solving. In passive listening, the listener accepts and retain information as-is with no intention to question or challenge the idea for improvement. He disconnects himself from others or shows minimum interest. By doing this, he creates the impediments for himself because in a time of need he forgets about what was said earlier


What is Active Listening

That is fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker. Active listening involves listening with all senses.  Active listening is a communication technique used in counseling, training, and conflict resolution. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.

Active listening is a form of listening communication where listeners actively listen and respond to the speaker. It is not necessary that when two persons are communication, they are listening each other actively. Half listening and half thinking are common distractions that occur. In both personal and professional life, listening is one of the most skills that a person must have. It can impact on your job effectiveness and the quality of relationships with others. To improve the level of active listening, you must pay attention to the other person. Make it sure you are trying not to distract easily. Business analyst suggests that if you want to increase your concentration level on what is saying on by the speaker, then he must try repeating speaker’s words mentally as he says them – this will reinforce his message and help you stay focused. To enhance the listening or active listening skills, you need to allow the other person that you are listening to him. Active listening not stands for focusing on what speaker is speaking about but also actively showing verbal and non-verbal signs of listening. This kind of listening is widely used in multiple situations like community organizing, public interest advocacy, tutoring, counseling,


How Does Body Language and Listening Work Together

The strategic use of body language plays a key role in effective communication. Here are seven ways to show that you are listening:

1) Look like you’re listening

If you want people to give you their ideas, don’t multi-task while they do! Avoid the temptation to check your text messages, check your watch, or check out how the other participants are reacting. Instead, focus on those who are speaking by turning your head and torso to face them directly and by making eye contact. Leaning forward is another nonverbal way to show you’re engaged and paying attention. It’s important to listen to people — it’s just as important to make sure that they know you are listening.

2) Use your head

To encourage a team member to expand on their comments, nod your head using clusters of three nods at regular intervals. I’ve found that people will talk much more than usual when the listener nods in this manner. Head tilting is another signal that you are interested, curious and involved. The head tilt is a universal gesture of giving the other person an ear.

3) Open Your Body

We reveal a lot about our attitudes, emotions, and motives by the way we hold our bodies, especially when using closed or open postures.

In the ultimately closed body posture, arms are folded, legs are crossed and the torso or legs are turned away. Rounding the upper body and hiding hands are closed signals that may also represent feelings of vulnerability or depression.

In open and receptive body postures, legs are uncrossed, and arms are open with palms exposed or resting comfortably on the desk or conference table. If the arms are relaxed at the sides of the body while standing, this is also generally a sign of openness, accessibility, and an overall willingness to listen and interact.

To show that you are receptive to other people’s ideas, uncross your arms and legs. Put your feet flat on the floor and use open palm gestures (which is a body language display inviting others into the conversation).

4) Remove Barriers

Physical obstructions are especially detrimental to looking open and receptive. Take away anything that blocks your view or forms a barrier between you and the rest of the team. Even at a coffee break, be aware that you may create a barrier by holding your cup and saucer in a way that seems deliberately to block your body or distance you from others. A successful senior executive told me he could evaluate his team’s comfort by how high they held their coffee cups. It was his observation that the more insecure individuals felt, the higher they held their coffee. People with their hands held at waist level were more comfortable than those with hands chest high.

5) Activate Your Smile Power

A genuine smile not only stimulates your own sense of well-being, it also tells those around you that you are approachable, cooperative, and trustworthy. A genuine smile comes on slowly, crinkles the eyes, lights up the face, and fades away slowly. Most importantly, smiling directly influences how other people respond to you. When you smile at someone, they almost always smile in return. And, because facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, the smile you get back actually changes that person’s emotional state in a positive way.

6) Lean in

Leaning is another way your body indicates your emotions. Leaning backward usually signals feelings of dislike or negativity. It’s a hardwired response from the limbic brain; we subconsciously try to distance ourselves from anything unpleasant or dangerous. In a seated conversation, leaning backward can also communicate dominance or disinterest.

Positive attitudes toward others tend to be accompanied by leaning forward – especially when sitting down. When two people like each other, you’ll see them both lean in. Research also shows that individuals who lean forward tend to increase the verbal output of the person they’re speaking with

7) Mirror Expressions and Postures

When a business colleague mirrors your body language, it’s his or her way of nonverbally saying that they like or agree with you. When done with intent, mirroring can be an important part of listening (this time listening to what the other person’s body is telling you). Mirroring starts by observing a person’s facial and physical gestures and then subtly taking on the same expressions and postures.

Building positive business relationships takes more than inclusive body language and good listening skills. But don’t underestimate the impact of these behaviors. They can either support or sabotage your efforts.


In conclusion, having good listening skils, both active and passive listening play an important role in communication.  Hearing what someone says to you is another part of listening.  You let someone know you heard what they said by repeating back to them something they said to you when you answer them.  In today’s world with technology taking over our lives the art of communication and listening are being lost.  Finally, body language has a big part in listening, because your posture while you’re listening lets the speaker know if you’re hearing and accepting what they’re saying or challenging their point of view on the subject.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *