Interpersonal Leadership: Communication
“Practicing Active Listening” (SL#47)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 7.3 - Interpersonal Communication

  1. Active listening, a vital part of interpersonal communication, means to listen with your heart, as a whole person. Such communication in a given situation is from a total person to a total person including intellect, emotions, volition, relationships, and actions. The dictionaries capture part of this as attentiveness, mental sensing, perception, awareness, observance, even mindfulness. An old saying: “The Lord gave us two ears to hear and one mouth to speak; we should listen and speak in about that ratio.”

    Listening, really listening, is the hardest part of communication, so don’t be surprised by it. At my house (or office) it goes like this: “Lloyd, I know we’re in the same room, and I’ve been talking, but you haven’t heard one word I’ve said.” Now, don’t be embarrassed for me--the same thing has happened to you. Right?

    David Johnson, a teacher of psychology and prolific writer, describes what we are calling “active listening” as “closely,” or “helpful,” or “responsive listening.” It is a powerful component of effective interpersonal communication.

  2. Active Listening in Action
    In the practice of interpersonal communication, there are valuable listening elements that have been identified, proven in practice, can be learned or improved, and become a rewarding part of your life and leadership. Let’s examine them one by one for reflection and application. “Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice.”--Polonius (Hamlet), Shakespeare
  3. Graphic Cycle: Disclosure, Listening and Feedback
    Articles SL#47 and SL#48 seek to expand our knowledge and practice of navigating two essential elements of interpersonal communication: active listening and responsive feedback. Work through the cycle as a guiding visual.

    An interpersonal communication cycle begins with a sender’s message or disclosure; it may include cognitive information, personal feelings, and a desired understanding or even changed behavior.

    Active listening:
    The message has a chance of understanding if there is “active listening” by the receiver-- an effort to be receptive, helpful, understanding.

    Responsive feedback:
    The receiver seeks to give open, relevant, helpful feedback, including perceived understanding, affirmation and/or differences, and personal feelings.

    The message sender becomes the receiver, and the communication may be completed, achieving mutual understanding and/or desired changed behavior.

    Continuing Cycle:
    Or, more than likely, in communication between two or more persons (a group or team), the cycle of disclosure, listening, and feedback continues until there is mutual understanding and behavior change.

  4. For Reflection/Assessment/Application On a scale of 1(low) to 10 (high), how would you rank your skill as an active listener? Circle your (honest) answer:
    Low 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 High

    On a good day, the best I can do is about a 7; But that’s what this article is about--improvement! We just can’t emphasize enough the importance of active listening as a vital skill for leadership as a relationship. It contributes to team-building, improves performance, and often leads to ministry results.

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 © 2006; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership