Communication Tips – the Skills Used in Active Listening

Communication tips by Nursing on the Move.

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The skills used in active listening

Active listening involves a number of skills that help facilitate, direct and structure your interaction. Using these skills makes communication more effective and more satisfying for both you and your patients.

Facilitative skills are (non)verbal encouragement, silence, repetition, paraphrasing, reflecting feelings, picking up and responding to cues. Directive skills are asking questions, asking for clarifications, providing a rationale and signposting. Finally, structuring skills are about chunking and checking, timing the information, explicitly highlighting particular information, summarising, structuring and using metacommunication.

Chunking and checking

‘Chunking’ means breaking down longer and more complex explanations into digestible pieces, so called ‘chunks’. This can help patient with understanding and recalling because smaller pieces of information are easier to process.

After you give each piece of information, check that patients have understood before moving on to the next. You may do this by asking explicitly or by observing patients’ nonverbal responses. Only move on to the next ‘chunk’ when you are confident a patient has understood the previous chunk.


-I will now tell you what I think is wrong,

then what I expect to happen and

finally what can be done.

For more information, tips and examples, click here.Communication-for-Professionals-logo

© 2019 Communication for Professionals

Book TipFurther Reading

Case Studies in Health Communication

By Eileen Berlin Ray

This book focuses on the complexities of the communication of health-related messages and information through the use of case studies. The expert contributors to this volume are scholars who, during their research and consulting, grapple with many of the issues of concern to those studying health communication. While several introductory books offer brief case studies to illustrate concepts covered, this book provides in-depth cases that enable more advanced students to apply theory to real situations… shop the book.

Voiced but unheard agendas: qualitative analysis of the psychosocial cues that patients with unexplained symptoms present to general practitioners

by P. Salmon, C. F. Dowrick, A. Ring, G. M. Humphris 

Background: Symptomatic investigation and treatment of unexplained physical symptoms is often attributed to patients’ beliefs and demands for physical treatments.

Aim: To test the influential assumption that patients who present symptoms that the general practitioner (GP) considers to be medically unexplained do not generally provide the opportunity for discussion of psychological issues… read more

Published in GI-Mail 05/2019 (English and German edition). Sign up for GI-Mail here.  

Tip: More up to date educational events can be found online in the Education Database »medicine & health«.




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