Listening is a key part of the communication process; a good communicator is foremost a good listener. Listening implies an active participation to receiving the information being transmitted and involves:
understanding (identifying and recognising the encoded information)
decoding the information into meanings (based on the receiver’s experience and memory)
attaching significance to the processed information
evaluating (placing a relevant judgment on the received information)
Studies have shown the importance of listening not only for decoding the meaning, but also for decoding the circumstances of the message. It is important that the listening is done at the same time as observing the individual so as to be aware of the non-verbal messages.
Passive listening is a type of cooperative communication limited to feeding back mostly non-verbal messages which express accesptance, understanding, empathy. Sometimes the attitude is more important than words. Passive listening has two stages: opening the door (made by an affirmation and not necessarily a question which can constitute a barrier in communication: “I noticed that you are sad. I can see you are having a problem. If you want to talk, I am here for you.”), listening without interrupting – at most sending signals of the type “I get it/ I understand”. It is important to differentiate to the child between understanding and agreeing to a certain action or behaviour. We can understand as parents the need to scream, to throw a toy, but it doesn’t mean we have to approve or support such behaviours. Active listening is a complex form of listening in which both verbal and non-verbal communication can take place. Questions may be asked in order to clarify certain communicated aspects, however the communication must be led towards what the child needs/ wants to reveal, encouraging him to open up no matter how serious the topic discussed might be. Any contradictory intervention from the adult may be perceived by the child as a personal attack to his emotions.