Active listening, a method which owes its development to Thomas Gordon, is a critical method of listening in communicating. It is a type of listening where the listener gives feedback to the speaker in context of content and emotions. In other words, active listening doesn’t consist of repeating the speaker’s exact words back to them, but rather, enables the listener to let the speaker to know the thoroughly understand them by paraphrasing their words, by accepting the speaker’s feelings, and by stimulating the speaker to explore those thoughts and feelings. Active listening is a powerful method, and it is appropriate in many different situations.
For example, a person going through a traumatizing or sorrowful situation isn’t seeking for solution messages from their listener; messages that convey to the speaker what he or she should do or feel in this particular situation. The listener is not in their situation, and cannot give them solutions, because they cannot, at that moment, put themselves in the speaker’s shoes. Moreover, the speaker isn’t looking for suggestions in that instance, but rather the comfort that someone can sympathize with them and understand them. Active listening, thus, is perfect for situations where the speaker is seeking comfort through someone understanding and truly listening to them. Rather than telling your friend, whose grandmother just died, that don’t worry she’s in a better place, and that she was suffering anyway, and that it’s better off this way, with active listening, one would say, your grandmother was a great woman, and I remember the strong bond you guys had, I am sorry and I feel for you, or something along those lines. Something letting him or her know that you are understanding where she’s coming from, and that you agree with him or her, or disagree with him or her.