> Take action > Our Principles > Active listening

< Retour

Active listening

Active listening helps individuals and groups feel listened to, develops self-reflection and encourages people to find solutions on their own. It is a fundamental aspect of popular education and can be used in many contexts, such as :
  Coaching, providing individual support (when tutors help the “Pépins”, the people receiving support), for example ;
  Conducting interviews or focus groups for current and future research ;
  Leading a task force, debriefing an educational activity during a training course, etc.

Attitudes when actively listening

When listening to a person or a group, we respond spontaneously through physical and verbal reactions. These spontaneous reactions can make people feel being listened to, enabling them to reflect, seek solutions, and understand more deeply what is happening... But other reactions can, on the contrary, close down the conversation, preventing people from self-reflection. That’s why, as a mentor, facilitator or trainer, it is crucial to be aware of these attitudes and to question one’s listening habits.

When actively listening, we listen to the person or the group without imposing our point of view or our opinion at all costs. Our objective must always be to help them share their story openly and with as many details as possible.

Physically, this will be expressed by how people look at each other and show signs encouraging them to continue talking (like nodding, etc.). On the other hand, we try to curb behaviours likely to block or limit communication and evoke the feeling of not being listened to (i.e., cutting the person off when speaking, looking away, looking at one’s telephone, etc.).

Orally, we prioritise verbal communication that encourages the person or group to keep talking, provide expansive responses and reflect.

Verbal reactions

Here are the verbal reactions that facilitate communication and promote a feeling of being listened to :
  Probing : ask questions to learn more about the story or the person’s feelings.
  Rephrasing : use what the person says as a starting point to help them share more.

Like our body reactions, some of our spontaneous verbal responses that can block or limit communication and evoke the feeling of not being listened to are :
  Passing judgement : when we give a positive or negative opinion on what the person has just said.
  Making suppositions : when we provide explanations but have little to go on ; if we are wrong, the person does not feel listened to or understood. If we don’t get it wrong, the person will think we have “read between the lines” and will no longer feel the need to share more.
  Giving advice : active listening aims to help the person or group create their own solutions. If the person does not ask for advice, it is better not to give it, at least not while you are actively listening, as this may give the impression that the person is unable to come up with their own solutions. What’s more, the advice may not be appropriate to the situation.
  Trying to reassure or console the person : when they share something painful (in a private coaching session, for example), we may be tempted to comfort them. But be careful not to make light of their feelings ("Don’t worry, it’s not that serious"), as this could have the opposite effect : they won’t feel understood.

In the attached downloadable sheet, you will find examples of verbal reactions, as well as ideas for working on this posture, individually and collectively.

Active listening

To find out more

The active listening technique was developed by the American psychologist Carl Rogers who worked extensively on client-centred therapy. Psychologist Elias Porter developed the counsellor’s attitudes that promote communication.
Rogers, C. Client-centered Therapy : Its current pactice, implications and theory. Boston, Hoghton Mifflin, 1951

Active listening
Auteur(s) : Frères des Hommes