Difference Between Active and Passive Listening

Active vs Passive Listening
 

The difference between active and passive listening arises with the listener’s behavior towards the speaker. In our day to day life, listening plays a key role. It is not confined to the act of merely hearing something, but also making sense of what we hear. Listening can take two forms. They are active listening and passive listening. Active listening is when the listener is fully engaged in what the speaker is saying. It is a two-way communication where the listener would actively respond to the speaker. However, passive listening is quite different to active listening. In passive listening, the attention that the listener gives to the speaker is lesser in comparison to active listening. It is a one-way communication where the listener does not respond to the speaker. This article attempts to highlight the difference between these two forms of listening.

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is when the listener is fully engaged and reacts to the ideas presented by the speaker. This is usually through non-verbal cues such as nodding, smiling, facial expressions in response to the ideas of the speaker, making eye contact, etc. The listener can also ask questions, clarify ideas, and even comment on certain points that have been presented. In active listening, the listener engages in analytical listening and also deep listening. The listener does not merely listens, but also analyzes the ideas, evaluate and assess them while listening.

In day to day life, we all become active listeners. For example, when listening to a friend, we not only listen but also react according to the situation. In counseling, active listening is considered as one of the core skills that a counselor must develop. This allows the counselor to have a better relationship with the client. Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist stated that in counseling the counselor should expand his active listening skills to include empathetic listening as well. Carl Rogers defines empathetic listening as “entering the private perceptual world of the other.” This highlights that active listening allows the listener to completely endorse in the communication by not only understanding the speaker but also reacting to it.

Difference Between Active and Passive Listening

What is Passive Listening?

In passive listening, the listener does not react to the ideas of the speaker but merely listens. In this case, the listener makes no attempt to interrupt the speaker, by asking questions and commenting on the ideas that have been presented. This, however, does not mean that the listener is not paying much attention to the speaker. On the contrary, even though he is listening he makes no attempt to react.

For example, imagine you are at a seminar with hundreds of people. You are engaged in passive listening because there is less opportunity to form a two-way communication. The listener does not make any eye contact and has less room for asking questions and clarifications. However, passive listening can also be helpful. In counseling, it is believed that passive listening allows a breathing space for the client to vent out his bottled up emotions.

Active vs Passive Listening

What is the difference between Active and Passive Listening?

• Definition of Active and Passive Listening:

• Active listening is when the listener is fully engaged and reacts to the ideas presented by the speaker.

• In passive listening, the listener does not react to the ideas of the speaker but merely listens.

• Communication:

• Active listening is a two-way communication.

• Passive listening is a one way communication.

• Reactions of the Listener:

• In active listening, the listener reacts using nonverbal cues, comments, and questioning.

• In passive listening, the listener does not react.

• Effort:

• Unlike in active listening, passive listening does not require much effort.

• Other Activities Involved:

• In active listening, the listener analyzes, evaluates, and summarizes.

• In passive listening, the listener merely listens.

 

Images Courtesy:

  1. Active listening via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. Seminar by Global Institutes (CC BY-SA 3.0)