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Listening seems like such a simple skill but the real skill is to make sure the speaker is heard and know that they have been understood. With this “active listening” we enable personal learning and growth of important relationships.

Skill Definition:

  • I have the mental discipline to pay attention to what someone is saying. I hear the words.
  • I seek to understand what the other person is saying. I hear not just the words but the meaning of the words.
  • I can use active listening techniques. The other person knows I have understood them.

Key Learning Points:

  • How well you listen has a major impact on your school and job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others. We listen to obtain information. We listen to understand. We listen for enjoyment. We listen to learn.
  • Giving your full attention to the person who is speaking allows you to gain/grow and improves the relationship.

Faith Worldview:

  • Listening is a simple way to show you “love your neighbor”. Active listens shows they are appreciated and valued.

Learning Path:

  • Listening takes practice, start by listening to a favorite TV show or song. Make a point to keep your mind on the subject so that you actually remember key points. Take notes if necessary.
  • Now practice further with a colleague, friend or family member. In addition to remembering the key points, try to summarize what you heard by saying something in reply, e.g. …”this is what I think you said (and why you think it is important.”

Deeper Topics:

  • Responses in Active Listening. Active listening is about focusing on the person who is speaking. The way we can show we are actively listening is to ask good questions, listen non-judgmentally, paraphrase, and empathize. Source: Active Listening: A Communication Tool (pdf).
  • Sources of Difficulty in Communication. Source: Tips on Effective Listening on drnadig.com
Sources of Difficulty by the Speaker Sources of Difficulty by the Listener
  • Voice volume too low to be heard.
  • Making the message too complex, either by including too many unnecessary details or too many issues.
  • Getting lost, forgetting your point or the purpose of the interaction.
  • Body language or nonverbal elements contradicting or interfering with the verbal message, such as smiling when anger or hurt is being expressed.
  • Paying too much attention to how the other person is taking the message, or how the person might react.
  • Being preoccupied and not listening.
  • Being so interested in what you have to say that you listen mainly to find an opening to get the floor.
  • Formulating and listening to your own rebuttal to what the speaker is saying.
  • Listening to your own personal beliefs about what is being said.
  • Evaluating and making judgments about the speaker or the message.
  • Not asking for clarification when you know that you do not understand.
  • Listening Tips: Source: Listening Skills on InfoPlease.com
    • Give your full attention to the person who is speaking. Don’t look out the window or at what else is going on in the room.
    • Make sure your mind is focused, too. It can be easy to let your mind wander if you think you know what the person is going to say next, but you might be wrong! If you feel your mind wandering, change the position of your body and try to concentrate on the speaker’s words.
    • Let the speaker finish before you begin to talk. Speakers appreciate having the chance to say everything they would like to say without being interrupted. When you interrupt, it looks like you aren’t listening, even if you really are.
    • Let yourself finish listening before you begin to speak! You can’t really listen if you are busy thinking about what you want say next.
    • Listen for main ideas. The main ideas are the most important points the speaker wants to get across. They may be mentioned at the start or end of a talk, and repeated a number of times. Pay special attention to statements that begin with phrases such as “My point is…” or “The thing to remember is…

Exercises for Older Teens and Adults:

Exercises for Younger Teens (13-16):

  • Telephone Game. Play the game once without much instruction. Play the game the second time by having the participants ask questions or asking the talker to repeat themselves. Some phrases for consideration:
    • Today we’ll learn about listening carefully.
    • Oak tables don’t look good painted red.
    • My puppy tracked mud all over the kitchen floor.
    • I tried bleaching my hair and it turned orange.
  •  Main Point Activity. Read the following short story. Ask the teens to share what they heard? What’s the main point? What are secondary points? OK to read just the first paragraph. With the older teens practice active listening too.

Master Gardener of Your Soul (from James Allen, As a Man Thinketh)

Just as a gardener cultivates his plot, keeping it free from weeds, and growing the flowers and fruits, which he requires, so may a person tend the garden of his mind, weeding out all of the wrong, useless, and impure thoughts, and cultivating toward perfection the flowers and fruits of right, useful, and pure thoughts. By pursuing this process, a person sooner or later discovers that he is the master gardener of his soul, the director of his life.

Our minds are like gardens; they grow whatever we allow to take root. Control your own destiny by controlling what goes into your mind, the conversations you participate in, the people you associate with, and the music you listen to books you read, the thoughts you think, the television you watch combine to create your future.

Questions to Encourage Critical Thinking:

  • In what situations do you have the most difficulty listening? Certain people? Certain subjects? Certain situations?
  • What is my mental process to remember key points made by the speaker? Will taking notes help?

Tools and Templates:

  • None at this time.

Word Definition:

  • Listen. 1. Make conscious effort to hear: to concentrate on hearing somebody or something; 2. pay attention: to pay attention to something and take it into account.

Web Articles:


  • Need a recommendation.



Faith-Based Quotes:

  • “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” – James 1:19 ESV
  • Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding.” – Proverbs 2:2 ESV

Other Quotes:

  • “We were given two ears but only one mouth, because listening is twice as hard as talking”. – Unknown
  • “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. – Stephen Covey

One-Point Lesson:

Related Skills:

 Summary 2-page Lesson Examples, coming soon:

  • Listening (handout)
  • Listening (with instructor notes)