Active listening involves an open, respectful and empathetic attitude towards the conversation partner, as well as the content of the conversation.

TL;DR: Active Listening Definition

Active listening – as an essential tool of communication – makes it its task to better understand the interlocutor and is thus considered the most important discipline of conducting a conversation. Above all, it is about listening attentively to one’s counterpart, agreeing with them and, if necessary, asking questions. With enough active listening practice, you will master any important conversation in the future.

dog active listening

The key elements of active listening

Active listening in communication, especially at the workplace, is vital for holding fruitful conversations. But what do successful listeners have in common? How do you lead a conversation accordingly? The founder of talk therapy in medical psychology, Carl Ransom Rogers, sees three elements as the basis for “Active Listening”:

  1. Empathy and openness: Active listeners encourage their conversation partners to openly offer their thoughts and feelings without the fear of being dismissed or not taken seriously.
  2. Authenticity: Active listening involves showing genuine interest and investment in what the speaker is saying. This is done by directly referring to the speaker’s statements, offering back-channeling signals and noticing non-verbal cues.
  3. Acceptance and positive regard: Being respectful of the speaker’s opinions and feelings is vital. A good listener offers unconditional acceptance, regardless of their own standpoints.

Benefits of Active Listening

As a matter of fact, being a good listener can be highly beneficial for important conversations to come. Listening as a skill is a characteristic many managers and CEOs seek in an employee. Many of us are conditioned to bring across our standpoints in an understandable manner. However, successful listening is a skill only a few can master. Some benefits of being an active listener include:

  • The interlocutors can better respond to each other
  • Active listening forms the sensible argumentation basis for the further course of the conversation
  • Misunderstandings become less frequent
  • Building a level of trust

Why Active Listening is Important

We have established the benefits of active listening in the workplace. But being a good listener is not only important for work purposes, but also for your everyday life. Being able to hold great conversations will have a positive impact on all your realtionships. Here are some of the reasons why active listening is important:

  • Active listening creates a good atmosphere
  • It helps you to understand the mindset of your counterpart
  • You engage with the person you are talking to
  • You are able to correspond emotionally
  • You animate your counterpart to an action
  • You understand the opinion and motivation of the interlocutor and respect them
  • You repeat important points, as well as thoughts of the interlocutor

Active listening vs passive listening examples

Want to become a better listener now? For your conversation to be successful, you first need to understand the difference between active listening and passive listening. An active listener pays close attention to what their conversation partner is saying and comes up with a fitting response. A passive listener, on the other hand, does not engage in their partner’s statements. How can you signal active listening? A distinction is made between verbal and nonverbal means that can be used to signal to your interlocutor that you are actively engaging in the conversation.

Verbal means

Using verbal cues is the easiest and clearest way to show your interest in the conversation and your partner. Cues that give the speaker an immediate response include:

  • “Yes”, “I understand” etc. to signal agreement
  • “Could you please explain that to me again in a little more detail?! – signals a follow-up question.
  • Restraint of one’s own opinion
  • Do not interrupt the person you are talking to, let them finish.

Nonverbal means

Nonverbal cues are just as important as verbal ones when holding an important conversation. Gestures can speak louder than a thousand words and directly portray your attitude towards the speaker. Show interest by:

  • Keeping eye contact
  • Making notes if necessary
  • Nodding
  • Keeping your eyes open

Putting these means into action is a skill that can be trained and improved over time. There is a lot of material for active listening exercises out there, if you want to take matters into your own hand and become a better listener.

Active listening practice: 5 ways to listen better – Video


Relationships in the workplace need just as much attention as private ones. Being an active listener fosters effective communication, which in turn can have a positive impact on a company’s efficiency and output. Colleagues feel valued, respected and trusted.

The three A’s of active listening are attention, attitude and adjustment. Mastering these three skills in a conversation involves a lot of self-awareness, concentration as well as practice.

Taking notes is a great way to fully engage in the conversation and shows the speaker that you are actively involved in what they are saying. However, being a good listener depends on many more verbal as well as nonverbal cues.