Active Listening Vs Passive Listening: 8 Major Differences With Examples

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Listening and speaking are important components of Effective communication. Effective communication allows the message, sender and the receiver to express themselves in and even exchange ideas. Listening is an act of making sense out of what a person hears in which case, it requires paying attention, interpreting and remembering what is being communicated. There are two types of listening-

  • Active Listening
  • Passive listening.

What Is Passive Listening?

Unlike active listening, passive listening does not require any special effort other than hearing what is being said. A passive listener usually does not interrupt the speaker or perform any other action whatsoever at the same time in which the speaker is delivering his or her speech. Typically, a passive listener does not nod his or her head, make appropriate facial expression and maintain eye contacts with the speaker or engage in any other action that indicates he or she is paying attention.

Examples of passive listening include, communicating on the phone to your mother while checking facebook, twitter or Instagram, texting your girlfriend during a lecture in school or listening to your spouse complain about their day at work while watching news on TV.

Examples Of When Passive Listening Is Appropriate

  • Listening to news, podcast or music at the gym.
  • Watching TV while typing a few letters on your laptop.
  • When the kids are playing in the house while you are in the bathroom.
  • Listening to podcast on your way to work.
  • Listening to praise and worship music on your way to church.
Example Passive Listening In Picture

What You need To Know About Passive Listening

  1.   Passive listening is one where the receiver doesn’t provide feedback or asks questions and may or may not understand what is being communicated.
  2. In passive listening, the listener has a negative attitude which is demonstrated through selective and ignoring attitude. 
  3. In passive listening, the listener pays little or no consideration to everything that is being communicated. He or she pays attention to a few areas and phrases.
  4. Passive listening is one way kind of communication since the listener is not interested in paying attention.
  5. Passive listening results in destruction from the topic under discussion.
  6. Passive listening doesn’t require much effort because the listener chooses what to pay attention to or not.
  7. Passive listener hides or denies any form of reasonable engagement and thus avoiding debates or giving options.
  8. Examples of passive listening include listening to a speaker during a presentation or meeting, listening to radio, podcasts, television shows etc.

What Is Active Listening?

Active listening requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand the message, respond thoughtfully and remember what is being said. It involves the listener observing the speaker’s behavior and body language. Having the ability to interpret a person’s body language lets the listener develop a more accurate understanding of the speaker’s message. In other words, active listening requires two-way communication and connection between the speaker and the listener. The listener isn’t just going to sit and remain silent; the active listener has a job to do in offering a response to the speaker.

 Examples of where active listening is very much required include, roundtable meeting discussions, job interviews, media interviews, interrogations, parliament debates, etc. Active listening is a technique that is used in counseling, training and solving disputes or conflicts. In active listening, both verbal and non-verbal techniques are used to show and keep attention on the speaker.

Non-verbal techniques include:

  • Maintaining eye contact (focusing on the other person).
  • Nodding or leaning forward a little
  • Sitting still
  • Letting the other person finish what he or she is saying without interruption
  • Interested silence (giving a person time to respond).
  • Avoiding destructions such as fidgeting, looking at the watch, doodling, playing with their hair or picking their fingernails. 

Verbal techniques Include:

  • Paraphrasing what the other person said.
  • Building trust and establishing rapport.
  • Seeking clarification.
  • Providing feedback.
  • Being sensitive to what the other person is feeling.
  • Asking open-ended questions like “What happened?, How did it end?, How did you feel about it?

What You Need To Know About Active Listening

  1. Active listening is where the receiver demonstrates through interruption, asking questions, nodding and giving responses as a sign that he or she understands what is being communicated.
  2. In active listening, the listener has a positive attitude which is demonstrated through body language, eye contact and reception.
  3. In active listening, the listener pays consideration to everything that is being communicated and gives additional time to listening.
  4. Active listening is a two-way communication because both the listener and the communicator are engaging one another.
  5. Active listening result in a clear and deeper understanding of the topic under discussion.
  6. Active listening requires effort because the listener has to be attentive.
  7. Active listener engages in reasonable exchange with the communicator.
  8. Examples of active listening include roundtable meeting discussions, job interviews, media interviews etc.

Difference Between Active And Passive Listening In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON ACTIVE LISTENING PASSIVE LISTENING
Description Passive listening is one where the receiver doesn’t provide feedback or asks questions and may or may not understand what is being communicated.   Active listening is where the receiver demonstrates through interruption, asking questions, nodding and giving responses as a sign that he or she understands what is being communicated.  
Attitude In passive listening, the listener has a negative attitude which is demonstrated through selective and ignoring attitude.    In active listening, the listener has a positive attitude which is demonstrated through body language, eye contact and reception.  
Consideration In passive listening, the listener pays little or no consideration to everything that is being communicated. He or she pays attention to a few areas and phrases.   In active listening, the listener pays consideration to everything that is being communicated and gives additional time to listening.  
Nature Of Communication Passive listening is one way kind of communication since the listener is not interested in paying attention.   Active listening is a two-way communication because both the listener and the communicator are engaging one another.  
Effect Passive listening results in destruction from the topic under discussion.   Active listening result in a clear and deeper understanding of the topic under discussion.  
Effort Requirement Passive listening doesn’t require much effort because the listener chooses what to pay attention to or not.   Active listening requires effort because the listener has to be attentive.  
Reasonable Engagement Passive listener hides or denies any form of reasonable engagement and thus avoiding debates or giving options.   Active listener engages in reasonable exchange with the communicator.    
Examples Examples of passive listening include listening to a speaker during a presentation or meeting, listening to radio, podcasts, and television shows etc.   Examples of where active listening is very much required include; roundtable meeting discussions, job interviews, and media interviews etc.