Active Listening: Body Language and Questions

Active listening involves providing your undivided attention to the someone through listening “not only with our ears, but with our eyes, mind, heart and imagination, as well” (Rogers, 1980).

The more you explore the topic of active listening, the more you will realise how passive the skill of listening can become without self-discipline.

In the counselling environment, it is vital to show that you are actively listening not only through words, but also body language (Liptak and Leutenberg, 2008).

Approximately 70% of communication is through body language and thus attending to one’s own body language as well as that of the person you are listening to can facilitate communication. For example, subtly leaning towards a person or mirroring their body language can demonstrate an interest in what is being said. It can also help the talker feel ‘heard,’ which is one of the key elements of counselling – having a place where you have a voice and your thoughts and feelings are heard.

In addition, body language (i.e. facial expression, clothing, complexion, etc.) can provide insight into a persons emotional world. If someone who usually dresses immaculately suddenly looks very unkempt, this might raise concerns and act as a signal that the person is currently struggling or in some kind of turmoil.

Two types of active listening include:

  • Paraphrasing and Summarising

  • Reflective Listening

These will be discussed in more detail in a future post.

Appropriate and timely questions can also be an effective method of demonstrating interest in someone, however, too many can become directive, taking you away from the talker’s  agenda, resulting in the listener leading the conversation.

When questions are used, open questions requiring more than one-word answers are more productive for encouraging the someone to continue sharing their thoughts and feelings.  An example of an open-ended question is, “Can you tell me some more about how that made you feel?” or “What brings you here today?” Indeed, open questions can be an effective method for initiating the beginning of a helping conversation.

Closed questions should be used minimally, but can be appropriate for gaining specific information, such as, “How long have you been taking the medication?” This example illustrates why closed questions should be used minimally; they are factual, whereas the helping and listening relationship is more about thoughts and feelings. When using closed questions, consider whether you are working according to the talker’s agenda or your own. The agenda should always be the talker’s. Furthermore, closed questions can be uncomfortable and feel more like an interrogation, hence why the police mainly use closed questions.

Categories: Counselling, Personal/Professional Development

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

11 replies

  1. Good article, please allow me to input… A great way to have healthy,
    glowing skin is to exfoliate. When you exfoliate,
    you are removing the top layer of dead skin from your face so
    that new skin can come to the surface. Exfoliation also helps in unclogging your pores, which is one way to prevent oil build-up that leads to acne.

  2. Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post.
    Many thanks for providing these details.

  3. Thanks for your marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you are a great author.
    I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will come back sometime soon.
    I want to encourage continue your great posts, have a nice afternoon!

  4. Hello there! I simply would like to offer you a huge thumbs up for your excellent info you have right here on
    this post. I’ll be returning to your site for more soon.

  5. I am in fact grateful to the owner of this website who has
    shared this great article at at this place.

  6. First of all I would like to say excellent blog! I had a quick question
    in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing.
    I’ve had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Cheers!

  7. I seldom leave a response, but i did some searching and wound up here Active Listening:
    Body Language and Questions | healthpsychologyconsultancy.
    And I do have some questions for you if it’s allright. Could it be simply me or does it look as if like some of the comments come across like they are coming from brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are posting on additional online sites, I would like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Could you make a list of every one of all your public pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  8. What a great question, ingram – perhaps a blog topic in itself. Try to use the 2 minute rule – make yourself write for 2 minutes – set a timer if necessary. Write anything, even if it is “I don’t know what to write.” Chances are that by the time the 2 minutes is up, you will be in your flow. If anyone else has any tips I would love to hear them.

    To everyone else who has commented on this post, THANK YOU – I am so pleased to hear that you enjoy my writing and hope that you can continue to gain from it.

  9. What an observation, avoir 😉 I have a feeling you would be good at active listening and, indeed, questioning.

    Thank you for your interest in keeping up to date with me. You can find my work at the following sites:


    Twitter: @healthpsychuk


  10. A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I believe that you ought to publish more on this issue, it
    may not be a taboo matter but typically people do not speak
    about these subjects. To the next! Many thanks!

  11. Everything is very open with a precise clarification of the challenges.

    It was really informative. Your site is very helpful.

    Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: