Center for Teaching and Learning
Stanford University, Stanford CA
Characteristics of Effective Listening
Listener looks bored, uninterested, or
judgmental; avoids eye contact; displays
distracting mannerisms (doodles, plays
with a paper clip, etc.)
Listener maintains positive posture; avoids
distracting mannerisms; keeps attention
focused on speaker; maintains eye contact;
nods and smiles when appropriate
Focus of Attention
Listener shifts focus of attention to
himself: "When something like that
happened to me, I . . . "
Listener keeps focus of her comments
on the speaker: "When that happened
what did you do?"
Listener fails to accept speaker's ideas
and feelings: "I think it would have been
better to . . . "
Listener accepts ideas and feelings:
"That's an interesting idea; can you say
more about it?
Listener fails to empathize: "I don't see
why you felt that . . . "
Listener empathizes: "So when that
happened, you felt angry."
Listener probes in a helpful way (but does
not cross examine): "Could you tell me
more about that? Why did you feel that
way? Listener follows up: "A few minutes
ago you said that . . . "
Listener fails to probe into an area, to
follow up on an idea or feeling
Listener fails to check the accuracy of
communication by restating in his own
words important statements made by
Listener paraphrases to guarantee that she
has understood correctly and to assure
speaker that this is so
Listener fails to summarize
Listener summarizes the progress of the
conversation from time to time
Listener narrows the range of alternatives by
suggesting one "correct" course of action
Listener broadens the range of ideas by
suggesting (or asking the speaker for) a
number of alternatives
* William H. Bergquist and Steven R. Phillips, A Handbook for Faculty...
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