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The Art of Active Listening

According to the Conflict Research Consortium at the University of Colorado, active listening is "a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding."

      So, how do you go about listening effectively when you and your student are communicating?

  1. Encouraging helps convey interest and keeps someone talking. Use neutral words and vary voice intonations.                 Example: "Can you tell me more…?"
  2. Clarifying helps understand what was said, gathers more information and enables the speaker to see other points of view. Ask questions and restate wrong interpretations to force the speaker to explain further.   Example: "When did this happen?"
  3. Restating shows that you are listening and understanding what is being said, and not misinterpreting. Restate basic ideas and facts.         Example: "So you would like your roommate to trust you more, is that right?"
  4. Reflecting shows understanding for how the person is feeling and helps the speaker evaluate her own feelings after hearing them expressed by someone else.         Example: "You seem very upset that your friends didn't include you."
  5. Summarizing is used to review progress, pull together important ideas and facts, and establish a basis for further discussion. Restate the major ideas expressed, including feelings.   Example: "The main things you've expressed so far are…"
  6. Validating acknowledges the worthiness of the other person. Acknowledge the value of issues and feelings, and show appreciation for the speaker's efforts and actions.         Example: "I appreciate your willingness to discuss this with me."

Communicating with your student takes so many forms, with listening well rising to the top. Practicing during the summer can help ensure that you and your student listen to and hear each other to the best of your abilities. And once distance, busy schedules and school are added into the mix, you'll be glad to have that active listening skill under your belt!

Sources: Taft College Tutor Training,; Conflict Research Consortium at the University of Colorado,

        What is Active Listening?     As another tool in your parent/student communication toolbox, it's about…

  • Giving Your Full Attention. Keeping your eyes and focus on the person speaking to you.
  • Being in the Moment. Not starting to develop your response while the speaker is still finishing her thoughts.
  • Limiting Advice. Sometimes people just need to process through things to figure it out on their own, while you listen affirmingly.
  • Not Interrupting. Interruptions often make it about you rather than the person you're supposed to be listening to!

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