Difference Between Active Listening & Passive Listening

by M.T. Wroblewski

Anyone who has ever been in hot water with his parents probably knows the difference between passive and active listening, for there's a time to listen quietly without interrupting and other times to engage in two-way conversation. The same lessons apply to the classroom.

Passive Listening Skills

College students who attend lectures in large halls and professionals who attend seminars in which the speaker does not entertain questions engage in passive listening: They're listening, but they're not reacting to or engaging in what they hear. People also engage in passive listening when they're watching TV or listening to the radio. Passive listening is a one-way form of communication.

Active Listening Skills

Many people put their active listening skills to the test every day. As they listen to someone speak, they may register nonverbal body language by making eye contact, nodding, shaking their head and making facial expressions. When the time is right, an active listener might make comments, ask questions for clarification and provide feedback. All the senses are on high alert and ready to engage fully when an active listener is on the receiving end. For example, an active listener focuses not only on spoken words but the tone and inflection of delivery to respond accordingly.

About the Author

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.

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