Active Listening

© 2002, Barry Sweeny


Active listening is a powerful mentoring strategy because:

  • It demonstrates that the mentor really cares about what the protege is saying and what the protege thinks and feels….
  • It shows that it is important to the mentor to understand the message accurately.
  • Further, this is a clear demonstration of the value that the mentor places on
    appropriately helping the protege.

Many people know about the “paraphrase” strategy, which involves “mirroring” back to the speaker what the listener perceived was communicated. That well known strategy acomplishes all three of the intentions stated above. However, some persons don’t like to use the pararphrase strategy very often because it seems too artificial and contrived to use it all the time.

It IS artificial to use only ONE strategy all the time !

Here some other possibilities to consider, ALL of which accomplish the same goals, to check accuracy of perception, affirm the importance of clear communication, and signal the value of the protege.


FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION – “What are you concerned about?”

REPEAT THE INFORMATION (paraphrase) – “You’re saying that _____ is was what usually happens?”

REPEAT BACK THE FEELINGS – “So you are frustrated with this person.”

ENCOURAGE MORE INFO – “Please go on. I want to understand it better.”

SHOW YOU ARE LISTENING – body language examples: nod, eye contact, sit facing
the speaker, even lean toward the speaker

SUMMARIZE WHAT WAS SAID – “The specific data that you want me to collect is the number of times I see you call a person by their first name. Am I right?”