Active Listening Strategies
How to Listen so That you Really Hear
Good listening skills are one of the most vital qualities of a tutor. The better you listen, the more you will understand. The more you show understanding, the more your tutee will talk. For a tutoring session to be successful, a non-judgmental atmosphere is critical, as is your ability to understand the other person's point of view.
Active Listening intentionally focuses on the speaker in order to understand what he or she is really saying. Active listening is more than just hearing; it's hearing with the focus placed on what the speaker is saying and reserving your reply until comprehension is complete. An active listener never interrupts the speaker and always listens to understand. Once the speaker has finished, an active listener is able to paraphrase the speaker's remarks including both verbal and nonverbal cues.
Good summary phrases include:
"What you're saying is…"
"It seems to me what your saying is…"
"It sounds to me like…"
Empathy is imagining oneself in another person's situation and experiencing that situation from their point of view. You try to become the other person so you can understand the reasons behind their feelings.
You communicate empathy with feedback: After listening to the other person, you "feed back" a summary of what you heard, focusing on both the person's emotions and the reason(s) for them ("You feel this way because . . ."). For example:
Student: "I can't believe I bombed that Chem exam. I studied and studied; I can't figure out why I can't get it. I don't want to blame the professor, but the average was only 47; no one I talked to did OK either. I need to do well in this class. I'm getting desperate."
Tutor: Your distress is understandable. It's really frustrating to work so hard and not have things turn out and not know why.
The tutor's response focused on the student's emotions by using the words "distress" and "frustrated."
The Tutor did not:
Judge - "You should have studied harder"
Negate - "Don't feel that way. It's only one test."
Sympathize - "Sometimes professors can be such jerks"
Rescue - "It's too bad. I'm sure you'll do better next time."
Own - "It's my fault for not focusing on those problem sets."
In summary, the process of actively listening and communicating empathy allows the tutee to control the direction, pace and conclusion of the tutoring session. The tutee does most of the work which better equips him or her to answer similar questions in the future.