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Becoming an Active Listener

Just as you need to become an aggressive reader to improve comprehension, you need to become an active -- as opposed to a passive -- listener. An active, effective listener is one who:

Receives information, understands and gives meaning to the information, and responds in some way.

A passive listener hears but really doesn't listen, comprehend, assimilate information or respond. Conversely, the active or aggressive listener receives the information, understands what's heard and responds to the communication.

If you view yourself as a visual or kinesthetic learner, your auditory skills may not be up to par. For example, as a visual learner, you have relied on reading and your sense of vision as your primary learning tools. Atrophy may have strangled your sense of hearing as a method of learning.

Unfortunately, as adults, we are active listeners only about 25 percent of the time. The other 75 percent of the time we're really not listening effectively. We may hear sounds, but information is easily forgotten or misunderstood. To be an effective adult learner, we need to spend more of our time as active listeners.

The passive listener becomes a passive learner -- the tendency is to lapse back to our formal education years, when passive learning was the name of the game. Thus, information enters one ear, becomes distorted or misunderstood, and goes out the other ear. In this instance, the individual is in the forest, hears the tree fall, but is unable to identify the sound or attach meaning to it.