Breath of Clarity

Active Listening Partner Activity

Original Post:

I enjoyed the assignment a lot, and it was so insightful.

Before the activity, I familiarized myself with the class material about nonverbal behaviors. That way, I could aim to implement specific strategies while interacting with my partner and be attune to my partner’s behaviors. According to Navarro (2015), doing so shows a skill because we miss listening to nonverbal behaviors in others and ourselves when we don’t know about them yet. He would add that, in order to be good observers, we have to know what to look for (Navarro 2015).

I also went into the activity knowing that my partner was the amiable-dominant social style. I am so glad that we took some time to get to know each other on the zoom call prior to officially beginning the activity. It was useful as it built trust and rapport. It was important to both of us. When we felt cared for, it was easier to relax and focus. It also empowered us because, as a result, we were able to get on the same page about the vision and purpose of the experience.

I was focusing on not being nervous so that I could support the speaker. From the get go, as Lyon (n.d.) recommended, I concentrated on nodding to demonstrate genuine interest and reassurance, tilting my head to be receptive, and placing my finger tips together to show confidence. While the first two skills were easy for me to consistently maintain, I tended to rub my hands together at times and then switch back to placing my finger tips together. However, I did well at following the recommendation by Lyon (n.d.) to give compressed verbal feedback with phrases such as “I hear you,” or “that makes sense” (Lyon n.d.). I also did well at making it so that my facial expression did not seem as though I was judging my partner. I kept a neutral facial expression the whole time aside from tossing in loving smiles to support the speaker and bring as much light-hearted confidence to the exchange. Further, I did well at listening for the big picture emotion and connecting with it (Lyons n.d.). We both needed that, and we both received it from each other.

I also did well at focusing on my partner’s topics. For example, my partner described the social styles of her work team members and how it is difficult to relate to others who are different from my partner. I responded by asking about my partner’s observations regarding how other members of the team handle relating to people who are different from them. We both were so skilled at asking probing questions.

Both of us noticed that asking probing questions was so helpful to the speaker. Both of us agreed that it helped guide the speaker and brought ease to the speaker. I noticed that our bond got stronger every time one of us asked a question. It aligned with the claim by Navarro (2015) that people will gravitate towards those who are curious about them.

At the same time, the main skill I need to improve upon is listening to the details. I was so interested in absorbing the main idea. I am glad to have the expressive tendency of focusing on the main idea because getting caught up in the details is a potential barrier to solid communication (Lyon n.d.). However, disregarding some details results in me not understanding the message as fully as I could be as I ‘decide’ what they are saying, as soon as I gather the main idea, before they are finished. Also, as a driver, I had tunnel vision in terms of being determined to achieve my goal of asking probing questions. As a result, I spent time formulating my question as my partner was talking. Instead, I need to be more comfortable with silence, allow my partner to finish making a point completely, then brainstorm the question and ask it. In the silent moments, I can focus on radiating reassuring, nonverbal communication such as nodding my head. It would also be a great time to slowly say “I hear you” and “that makes sense”. While I did say those phrases one time, I can create the opportunity to say them more often. My shortcoming impacted the conversation by making it feel rushed which is not useful considering that an amiable needs to go slow in stressful situations.

I also could have improved by having a stopwatch to keep track of the 5-minute time period. Since I did not start a stopwatch, I was simultaneously checking the clock and listening to my partner. As a result, in the moment, I was not able to observe my partner and myself as closely as I would have otherwise been able to do. Since the essence of being a quality active listener is observing, the extent to which I can get rid of anything interfering with my awareness of the relationship dynamic is directly correlated to having a positive effect on the conversation.


Lyon, Alex. Year (n.d.) “Effective Listening Skills.” Communication Coach Alex Lyon. YouTube. Nov. 20, 2017. Video, 5:26.

Navarro, Joe. 2015. “Keynote: The Power of Nonverbal Communications.” CMX. YouTube. Nov. 4, 2015. Video, 34:10.

Comment by Professor Robert Gnuse:

Mary, good use of various communication skills to help prepare for the listening portion (good use of prior knowledge as well). As you mentioned, probing questions help to create an exchanging dialogue where both feel involved. Good usage of lessons learned to help facilitate a supportive exchange during the discussion. Nonverbal cues are harder to ascertain during Zoom calls/teleconferencing, but body language is a necessary tool to fully understand and incorporate into one’s leadership style and ability to listen to others.

I to have times where, while thinking big picture and formulating my next probing question to ask, I lose some of the details of the conversation. In this case you might try “I hear you saying (insert a detail that you want to remember) and then wait for a confirming response from the speaker.

Comment by Sarah Gorman:

Hi Mary!

Great post. I probably struggled the most with this week simply because I have a lot going on outside of school and couldn’t put as much time as a usually do to prep. That being said it sounds like you excelled with this activity. Do you have any advice to remember mid conversation how to be self aware of your own body language?

Comment by Zack Benabdallah:

Hi, Mary.

Great post this week. Thank you for the detailed information you gave in your post. I like that you prepared yourself for non-verbal behaviors. You said, “I concentrated on nodding to demonstrate genuine interest and reassurance, tilting my head to be receptive, and placing my fingertips together to show confidence.” In my opinion, these behaviors are spontaneous and can be interpreted to explain the behaviors of others. Asking questions was something I failed in my meeting because I did not find a good time to ask them. However, you seemed to be successful in this. Do you have any tips to help improve this issue?