Active Listening

Active listening is a communication skill that is learned through practice and training. 
Choosing to listen attentively takes effort and there may be obstacles in effective application, such as distraction, interpretations of meaning and personal values.

Competences addressed/ learning outcomes expand_more

After completing this Learning resource participants will be able to:  
-  Active Listening
-  Communication skills
-  Critical Thinking
-  Logical thinking
-  Non verbal communication
-  Attention to detail


The objectives of this learning resource can be summarised as below:
-  To identify what active listening is and to explore the role of active listening in communication
-  To be able to recognize and exploit the opportunities to create value in the local community and to promote user’s business idea
-  To know how to use the appropriate tools to identify the needs of the social-cultural context and turn them into opportunities

Theoretical background expand_more

In order to help your own beneficiaries develop a social business idea, it is important to know what active listening is and how to use it to meet their entrepreneurial needs. Active listening goes beyond passive listening or mere hearing to establish a deeper connection between speaker and listener, as the listener gives the interlocutor full attention through inquiry, reflection, respect, and empathy. The challenge in listening effectively is to know how to listen. But research shows that entrepreneurs who practise active listening are more likely to have successful relationships with customers and their partners.

Active listening is a communication skill that is learned through practice and training. Choosing to listen attentively takes effort and there may be obstacles in effective application, such as distraction, interpretations of meaning and personal values.

According to Brooks (2001), the main characteristics of Active Listening are:
- listen for answers to intelligent, probing questions;  
- listen between-the-lines;
- never interrupt the customer;
- focus on what the customer is saying;
- record what the customer is saying;
- paraphrase what you believe you heard the customer say;
- ask for clarification;
- offer feedback;
- listen with your eyes, heart, and ears; and
- summarize what you heard the customer say.

In the path of an entrepreneurship education, it is important to learn what the benefits of Active Listening are:
1.  it is useful when you need to define your business idea to accommodate criticism/advice from trainers and stakeholders; 
2. it is crucial for an entrepreneur to be able to listen to her employees and have a fruitful relationship with them to understand their point of view;
3. taking the point of view of the end users serves to better define your service/product so that it can reflect the real needs of the context. The Benefits of Active Listening in Entrepreneurship
4. improves communication between you and your business partners.
5. helps you better understand the needs of your customers.
6. allows you to create more effective business strategies.

In this activity, the theme of active listening in relation to entrepreneurship education will be developed through the use of the Mind Map tool. This will help your learner to experience active listening within a peer group, in order to be able to put it effectively into practice in their business activities.

The Mind Map is a Design Thinking tool that helps people to structure, organize, memorize, arrange, brainstorm and learn information through a hierarchical spatial representation of ideas. It shows an overview and summary of a body of knowledge that fuses words and pictures together. It will boost partecipant’ creativity and critical thinking helping them to think outside the box.

Step-by-step implementation expand_more

In this section, you will find step-by-step instructions for implementing the activity. The tools that will be used are Mind Map from Design Thinking theory and Group Work. The foreign born women will work in small groups of 5-6 learners. It can be used at the beginning of social entrepreneurship training, but at the same time, the methods could be used by the woman entrepreneur with her employees as a teambuilding activity.

STEP 1 (15 minutes): Introduction to Active Listening
To begin, ask the beneficiaries what they think active listening is, asking them, for example:
-  How do you think active listening can help entrepreneurs?  
-  How can active listening skills benefit an entrepreneur in building and maintaining relationships with clients and customers?
After everyone has given their opinion, use the information in the "theoretical background" section to explain what Active Listening is. You can find other resources to elaborate further at the end of this section.

STEP 2 (15 minutes): Business Idea Mind Map 
Provide each participant with a “Business Idea Mind Map” sheet (attached to the activity). They will have 10 minutes to transcribe their social entrepreneurship idea in the form of a Mind Map, highlighting risks and opportunities related to the context of their idea. In the template we propose, the core of their business idea will be placed in the center of the map, with the subtopics branching off from it. The best way to include information is to organize them and proceed from the general to the particular, connecting concepts together through keywords. Invite participants to write down other words, signs, even drawings around their central theme. Encourage your learners to allow their mind to freely explore, diverge and connect points, growing the map bigger and bigger – there will be time to review and rationalise it at a later stage.
Alternatively, you can hand out blank sheets of paper and let the beneficiaries build their own from scratch.

STEP 3 (30-40 minutes): Applying Active Listening Skills
Using their own Mind Map, each participant must now present her idea to the rest of the group, who must practice the features of Active Listening previously explained. Identify one person in the group who, in turn, will play the role of the "troublemaker," that is, a person who does not know how to listen actively and efficiently. Before you begin, you can establish "bad listener" behaviors with the group. Below are some examples: the person playing this role may interrupt the interlocutor; using one's body to communicate inattention (not looking the interlocutor in the eye or being distracted by the phone); imposes its opinion by judging the interlocutor.... Etc.

STEP 4 (15 minutes): Evaluation Session
At the end, have an evaluation session to collect the participant’ feedback on how they felt during the activity. You can use the following questions:
- While you were expounding your ideas, did you notice any differences between good and bad listeners?
- How did you feel during the presentation?
- Was it difficult to practice active listening? Why?

Time needed and group sizeexpand_more

TIME: 90 minutes
GROUP SIZE: 5-6 learners

Materials needed for implementationexpand_more

1 Scenario paper (sheet which corresponds to A0 or more) for each participant,
black markers and colour markers, (eventually) computer/board to show videos and speakers.

Further resources: Videos and/or useful linksexpand_more


D. Farnsworth, J. L. Clark, Keri Perocchi & A. Wysock (2019), HOW TO LISTEN EFFECTIVELY,  by Food and Resource Economics Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Link: How to Listen Effectively 
M. Bacigalupo, L. W. García, Y. Mansoori & W. O’Keeffe (2020) EntreComp playbook, by Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. ISBN 978-92-76-19416-3
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