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The Art of Active Listening

This post was most recently updated on February 23rd, 2014

I was in a “Listening” group today, applying the principals of the Art of Listening.  We paired in twos.  Partners had to share statements that they found helpful in stressful situations.  

When I am stressed I use a breathing technique.  I count from 1 to 10 without any distraction in my mind.  Sounds easy?

Well….you try doing it.  Inhale and just concentrate on the number one, exhale and see that number “1”  go away.  Inhale number “2” , exhale and see that number go away.  Do it from 1 to 10.  Now, if ANYTHING comes to mind other than the number, you have to go back and start at  “1” again.
The object of the technique is to distract you from a negative moment. Also to clear your mind.

So I write it down and tell my partner what I did.  She, has to respond to me “I hear that you are saying that your breathing and number technique works to calm you down.” 

That is what we call “validation”

Then it was my partner’s turn to share her method of stress-reduction.  I validated her comment.  

Sounds pointless? 

NO!  Validation is effective because you can only validate a person by active listening.  This is one of many techniques I am working on to sharpen my skills in active listening.

When people talk we tend to have ideas running through our heads.  If we ignore those ideas and validate what the person is saying, we are being active listeners.  Active listeners get more out of the conversation.  Alternately, we might be thinking of our response rather than listening intently.  But in so doing, we are focused on judging, not listening.  Does our partner really need us to judge, or to listen?

Validation is more important to a person because they are confirmed that you have heard what they have said.

Now what does this have to do with Social Marketing, Internet Marketing or Network Marketing?   EVERYTHING.

After the exercise, all I could think of are the blog comments I routinely write.  I read the blog and sometimes make the mistake of not validating what the blogger had written about.  My mind runs and connects with my own experiences, and rather than focus on the blogger’s point of view, I anticipate my response as I read.

I wrote a previous article about the importance of blog commenting.

I have taken this opportunity to re-asses how I craft my comments.  I have caught myself thinking about my response, rather than reading intensely.  I would then write my comment about me, and my relationship to what was written in the post.


Now, I am more aware when I am reading a post.  I am more conscious of the fact that I must validate what that person has written first, and then maybe add my own two cents.

Comments on a blog are so important because others do read comments.  This is the fuel that blogging is powered by.  It is how I have personally attained so many followers and subscribers, and how you might, too.  Readers liked what I said, and sought me out via Google+, Facebook, or other social media sites.

CALL TO ACTION:  When you comment on a blog post, are you “listening” to what that person has written?  Do you validate the information they have given you?

Think about it and let me know your thoughts.

Be Blessed,
Donna Merrill

Donna Merrill
Donna is a well known blogger and creator of "Blogging Magic" - an intensive guide to blogging. "Blogging Magic" is for beginners who are trying to figure out how to bring their blogs to life with tons of visits, comments and social media interaction. It's even for advanced bloggers looking to reach new levels of authority and engagement with their audience.

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44 Responses to The Art of Active Listening

  1. Atish Ranjan
    September 4, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    To be a good businessman, an employee or whatever you would like to be, you need to be a good listener because if you don’t listen things properly it becomes hard to to the things correct way. Nice post Donna.
    Atish Ranjan recently posted..Dashrath Manjhi – The Mountain ManMy Profile

  2. Yorinda August 11, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    Hi Donna,
    you are so right, active listening is so important.
    Feeling validated, heard, is like balm to our soul in this fast paced life style most of us live in.
    When we write a post and someone leaves a comment that connects with what we said it is like someone has ‘put some more fuel in our tank’ which results in wanting to go the extra mile and provide more.

    Thank you for sharing your insights and wisdom!
    Love and Light
    Yorinda recently posted..Ketones Coconut Oil Superfuel for the BrainMy Profile

    • Donna.Merrill August 12, 2013 at 1:04 am #

      Hi Yorinda and thanks for digging up this post.

      It is so great when someone comments on our blog and we “connect” and it does make me want to write more also.

      Active listening does take some disciple, but it goes a long way.

      Donna.Merrill recently posted..Making Your Business BloomMy Profile

  3. Jeffrey T. Sooey April 25, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    I agree with what you said. Listening to what a person says rather than hearing is very important. Validating what the person has written about is important and even if we disagree with what he just wrote, knowing that we understood about what he was saying is equally important.

  4. Daniel Lombardi April 8, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    Hi Donna,

    People never listen enough these days. Being reminded to listen is always a good thing. The problem is that people feel better when they talk and make their voices heard. It’s a psychological comfort zone for humans to talk and especially about themselves. This is why we need to be reminded to listen every so often.

    Best wishes to you, for a magnificent weekend.

    • Donna Merrill April 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

      Hi Daniel
      I have bee working very hard on a group that is all about active listening. It is working well. The more our group works at it, the better we retain what we are hearing.
      Thanks for visiting,
      Donna Merrill recently posted..9 Rules Of SyndicationMy Profile

  5. tbaoo April 6, 2012 at 1:30 am #

    could’nt agree more, it’s just one of my bad habits that i struggle with. doing so is hard, but sometimes i use this bad habit to wade through the absolute nonsense i’m forced to endure .. yet another one of my bad habits 😉
    tbaoo recently posted..it smells like it must beMy Profile

    • Donna Merrill April 7, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

      Awww don’t blame yourself for “bad habits” because once recognized, you can always change it. That is what growing is all about!
      Donna Merrill recently posted..9 Rules Of SyndicationMy Profile

  6. Sarah Reece April 5, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    Hey Donna,

    You are so right with this. More often than not, while listening to others during a conversation, we are busy gathering our own thoughts to formulate a response, or a question etc., rather than hear attentively. Active listening can prevent many a misunderstandings, saving us a lot of time and hassle.

    I just loved the breathing technique with numbers that you gave here. I have known breathing exercises to help alleviate stress and tension, this one is new to me and sounds very simple too. Thanks for sharing all this.
    Sarah Reece recently posted..Bluehost CouponMy Profile

    • Donna Merrill April 6, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

      Hi Sarah! Yes, this breathing technique using numbers is quite difficult to do, until you get the hang of it. It is used the Quiet The Mind. Try it and see what I mean. Controlling your thoughts is not so easy and they float in, so let them float out in tiny pink bubbles and start all over again.
      With practice, it is a wonderful way to center. Especially if you are in a group of people at a party or among family (which can get crazy at times) just find a quiet place and do this exercise and you will come out with your mind/body/spirit centered and NOTHING can trigger you.
      Donna Merrill recently posted..9 Rules Of SyndicationMy Profile

  7. Shelley Alexander April 3, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    Donna, Thanks for sharing the importance of active listening. Active listening can really help facilate understanding between yourself and the person who is sharing their thoughts with you and it shows that you really care about what they are communicating. I also like the ideal of using your breathing technique in stressful situations.
    Shelley Alexander recently posted..Yogurt Carob Apple Almond ParfaitMy Profile

    • Donna Merrill April 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

      Hi Shelley,
      Oh my breathing technique saves me in so many situations lol.
      Active listening does take a while to practice, but it is worth it in every situation.
      Thank you for your comment,
      Donna Merrill recently posted..9 Rules Of SyndicationMy Profile

  8. Jason "J-Ryze" Fonceca April 2, 2012 at 9:24 pm #


    Epic, Donna. Just epic! I love this, and you’re right, you are passionate about this topic.

    This totally relates to what I just posted over at Logallot. We are definitely like-minded here.

    I’d like to take this a bit further…

    What’s interesting is most of my life I’ve been an attentive, sensitive listener, and I was – umm – EXTRA generous with it.

    I was listening and validating everyone without discipline.

    That is NOT recommended.
    (see here for this intense story: http://ryzeonline.com/painful-withdrawal-from-a-different-kind-of-addiction )

    Validation is a beautiful gift, and learning to listen and do it well is fantastic.

    It’s a reward, and I highly recommend exercising *discernment* with it.

    So, hopefully that helps someone with this topic. Validation’s one thing, but mastery with it is something else entirely 🙂

    • Donna Merrill April 3, 2012 at 4:20 am #

      Thank you so much for your excellent comment and I’m going to your story right now. Validation is something one must practice. Once it is in your mindset it is a breeze.
      thanks so much for your input
      Donna Merrill recently posted..9 Rules Of SyndicationMy Profile

      • Jason "J-Ryze" Fonceca April 3, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

        Well, that story got me a lot of personal e-mails and phonecalls. One person cried 🙂

        I had a tendency to OVER-validate, which is another can of worms. People LOVE it, but they love it like crack. They get addicted and just keep using you for your hyper-validating attitude 🙂

        • Donna Merrill April 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

          Hey Jason, Evoking a response is the best way to help people in their healing process. Validation is great and there is no such thing as over validating my friend. You are a caring person that is out there to help. If someone has an emotional response, it is a good thing. So happy we have met.
          Donna Merrill recently posted..9 Rules Of SyndicationMy Profile

  9. Dr. Erica Goodstone
    April 2, 2012 at 2:14 am #


    Listening is so important. I like what you suggested, that blog comments can indicate that we are either listening or just using it as an opportunity to express our own opinions.

    I have found that I don’t tend to need a specific exercise for listening. Just having a friend or associate truly listen when I am struggling with an issue can make such a huge difference. It just happened today and the way she listened and gave me caring feedback helped to change my mood and let go of what had been bothering me.


    Dr. Erica
    Dr. Erica Goodstone recently posted..Do you love your life?My Profile

    • Donna Merrill April 2, 2012 at 4:45 am #

      It is so important that we have someone in our life that listens to us. Usually we have friends or family with their own agenda and don’t really listen to what we are truly saying.

      Thank you for your input,
      Donna Merrill recently posted..The Art of Active ListeningMy Profile

  10. Gloria Woodruff April 1, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    What you say is so true, Donna. People really do feel validated when they are trully listened too. A lot of conversations are just competitions. Asking questions is also very important for real listening. I find this difficult, and so am now making this one of my goals as well.

    • Donna Merrill April 2, 2012 at 4:43 am #

      Hi Gloria,
      I am happy to see that you are making this one of your goals. You are spot on about asking questions. It is important for listening.
      Thank you for visiting,
      Donna Merrill recently posted..The Art of Active ListeningMy Profile

  11. Patricia Gozlan April 1, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    Very interesting points Donna.
    Validating what one says has 3 advantages, first we focus on what the other person is saying and transmitting us and to do this at 100 % and listen to their emotions, we need to stop our internal dialogue and BE there with the others.

    The second advantage is that to enter in rapport with others we need to pace them and pacing is another way of saying “I have my heart in my ears I am with you, I and am you”.

    The 3d advantage is the possibility to lead them and this happens naturally only when we listen as you say.

    To have others trusting us they need to feel and know we understand their position and listening is just that.

    Having the foto of this “ear” on our desktop is an anchor to remind us to listen.

    Thanks for sharing dear friend;)
    Patricia Gozlan recently posted..Access Your Higher Self to Create Change is it all… Psychobabble?My Profile

    • Donna Merrill April 1, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

      Oh Patricia, I knew YOU would understand this. Thank you for elaborating the post with your wonderful comment. Being the leader in your field that you are, it is great to have your comment here to help my readers further understand what I wrote about. I greatly appreciate it.
      Donna Merrill recently posted..The Art of Active ListeningMy Profile

  12. Rachel Lavern
    March 31, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    This post ‘busted’ me Donna, especially when I am commenting on blogs. Oftentimes I just share my thoughts on what they wrote about without first validating what they said–much like what you said you do. Ugh. Now that I know better, I will do better. Thanks for sharing.
    Rachel Lavern recently posted..Blow the Lid Off Your ConditioningMy Profile

    • Donna Merrill April 1, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

      Hey Rachel,
      Yes, so now you get the picture. Validation first and then your thoughts when commenting.

      This also is a great trick if you go to a blog that you don’t know, Put their name first (Dear __) and then say your post on (yada yada) was great.

      This helps you not falling into the spam box.

      Donna Merrill recently posted..The Art of Active ListeningMy Profile

  13. Dee Bauer March 31, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    This a great article, I never realized the aspect of listening. It made me think of selective hearing, but I guess hat because we are actually judging. Great job!

  14. Michael March 31, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    Thank you Donna. This is such an important idea and listening is such a necessary part of life. Blog commenting is like the lifeblood of community online and what you have written about listening actively makes so much sense when it comes to reading and responding to comments.

    I heard recently that in a conversation we spend almost 80 percent of our time either planning our response to what the person is saying or waiting for an opportunity to deliver our pre-planned response.

    You’ve hit it on the head with blog commenting here, it’s a vital thing to do and just makes sense to do it the way you are describing. 🙂
    Michael recently posted..Are We There Yet?My Profile

    • Donna Merrill April 1, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

      Yes it is true, we do spend 80 percent of our time planning a response. But if we learn to quiet our mind and just listen, our response will be a better one!
      Also, one can intuitively sense if another is not really listening an that connection can be lost in the process.

      But it also goes for blogging and commenting. I see to many short comments that will never be published on my blog. So what happens? They lose exposure. Hmmmm think about that one!

      Thanks for coming by
      Donna Merrill recently posted..The Art of Active ListeningMy Profile

  15. Doreen Munoz March 31, 2012 at 3:19 am #

    Great article! It’s so true that active listening is an important communication skill that is pertinent to business and even life. You will never get to know your audience unless you listen. Thank you Donna for great information.

    • Donna Merrill April 1, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

      Hi Doreen, Yes, people love when you are listening to them. Even when writing our blogs or comments, it is important to listen. It is such an effective way of communication.
      Donna Merrill recently posted..The Art of Active ListeningMy Profile

  16. Christine Redlin March 31, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    “What”… did you say/write? (ha) joking … this is very good information and I do always stop, read and listen. Funny when I first started my Blog in January, on my eBook website, I get and still do get all these Spam comments with people writing those generic comments such as: “Glad I stumbled on this Blog”, “Thank you for a great Blog it is so well written.” 🙂 So thank you for your thoughts and inspiration about good Blogging comments and your “Go-Giver” internet marketing work to help people feel and think better through our modern world of online marketing! I too like to help people feel and think better and create and produce whimsical and inspirational projects in all media. My current debut eBook is entitled “Life On A Shoestring … In Beverly Hills?” (www.lifeonashoestringinbeverlyhills.com) it is all about cost savings and inspiration while stretching the dollars! I also like to be a Go-giver (great phrase you created!) and I give back and I’m donating copies of the eBook to mom’s coming out of domestic violence shelters and starting their new lives with their children and to military folks coming home from active service, so they can ease back into society as many don’t have a lot of income. Here’s to may responsible Blog commenter’s unite! 🙂
    Christine Redlin recently posted..Cash is King When Living On A Shoestring — Give it When You Can!My Profile

    • Donna Merrill March 31, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      You are so awesome Christine! BTW I didn’t invent that term go-giver lol.
      But giving your time to people, listening to their needs and providing something for them, creates inner joy. I appreciate you sharing what you do.
      When we go to blogs and read them and actually give a good comment, it also brings other people to your blog. People see your comment and may be interested in you!
      Thanks for visiting,
      Donna Merrill recently posted..The Art of Active ListeningMy Profile

  17. Lynn Brown March 30, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    This makes a lot of sense Donna when it comes to listening. Validation is something that I think many of us, including me, miss when it comes to discussions or reading what others are saying. Our brains are going a mile a minute these days so the breathing exercise is a perfect way to really slow down and pay attention.

    I like how you related to blog posts and things that we read. I am probably now alone when I say that social media has provided a wonderful way to communicate with others, especially for business. But it is also has provided much overwhelm as there is just so much information it can make you go nuts. Unless of course, you focus in, set a plan and really take the time to ‘read’ what others are saying.

    Your article is a good reminder for me to slow down and validate! Thanks Donna.
    Lynn Brown recently posted..How Systems Can Streamline Your Online BusinessMy Profile

    • Donna Merrill March 31, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

      Hi Lynn, Yes, we need to set a certain amount of time each day for our daily tasks. If we don’t have a plan of action to take care of everything we need to do, we do get overwhelmed.

      Setting time out for each task and focusing on it does get the job well done.

      Thanks for visiting,

      Donna Merrill recently posted..The Art of Active ListeningMy Profile

  18. Ashley Porter March 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Listening is totally important in communication – so that we understand each others’ message – yet its something many people miss out on. Such a good point you have Donna, especially since communication (listening) is the foundation of strong relationships.

    Thanks for writing & looking forward to your next post.

    Ashley Porter recently posted..Top 5 Social Media CoursesMy Profile

    • Donna Merrill March 30, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

      Thanks Ashley, I always say communication is the key to all relationships. It can be personal or business. Effective listening does play an important role in it.

      Thank you so much for your comment,
      Donna Merrill recently posted..The Art of Active ListeningMy Profile

  19. Anne March 29, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    I’m going to try and validate your post by saying that I hear you and understand about counting the numbers and breathing as a way to clear your mind and get rid of anger/stress.

    It’s a great way, that I never use (I’m ashamed to say). I will try and use this method the next time I find myself getting stressed. I know about the numbers thing to fall asleep. I find this works very well.
    Anne recently posted..How To Build Confidence To DelegateMy Profile

    • Donna Merrill March 30, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

      Thanks Anne! Yes, try the numbers when you are stressed. If you are in a place where there is people around, go to another room, even the bathroom…no one dares to bother us there lol!

      Thanks for validating me,
      Donna Merrill recently posted..The Art of Active ListeningMy Profile

    • Jason "J-Ryze" Fonceca April 2, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

      I second this Anne + Donna 🙂

      It really is an excellent technique, and what’s funny is I don’t believe there’s any action that isn’t benefitted by more conscious breathing 🙂

  20. Juliette Ayot March 29, 2012 at 5:35 am #

    Really very interesting and helpful sharing about art of active listening. Sometimes I find that due to not listening properly or communicating lot of misunderstanding creep under the sleeves so better that we be an active listener so that may help to ease our communications.
    Juliette Ayot recently posted..Télémètre laser golfMy Profile

    • Donna Merrill March 30, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

      Absolutely Juliette! Active listening can help ease communications. It is also effective to share what you want to say, after listing to another person. Validating what is important to them, makes that person feel more comfortable with you.
      Thanks for visiting
      Donna Merrill recently posted..The Art of Active ListeningMy Profile

  21. marquita herald
    March 29, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    Great lesson on listening Donna. Active listening is such an important skill to cultivate – personally or professionally. Re your comments – I think you leave great comments … some others, not so much but that’s up to each blogger to manage. I do admit I finally broke down and crafted a comments policy last week. I realize anyone who really needs to see it will be the least likely to actually take a look, but it makes me feel better being up front about what will/won’t be approved.
    marquita herald recently posted..What Does it Mean to Live Life Intentionally?My Profile

    • Donna Merrill March 29, 2012 at 4:19 am #

      Good for you Marquita! I don’t accept tons of my comments because they are not congruent to what my blog is about. Also I can tell if there are automated and that will Never go through. If a person doesn’t take time to read my content, I don’t want them in my flow.
      Maybe I’m hardcore, but I am a businesswoman and have to run my blog as a business rather than a chatty place.
      I know it is difficult, especially if you know the person, but what else can we do.

      I’m also cleaning up my social sites. If people on Facebook are constantly posting their MLM opportunities out they go! It doesn’t take much time if you do it a little each day.
      Be Blessed,
      Donna Merrill recently posted..The Art of Active ListeningMy Profile

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