Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Using active listening in and out of the classroom

Quinn McGuinness

As college students living in an age filled with technology, social media and short-term entertainment, it can be hard to focus on one thing. Our minds wander in class, and if we have a question, it is difficult to think about anything other than what we want to ask. Similarly, during a conversation, you may be thinking about the time, what you are going to say next or what your friend was talking about in the first place.

Active listening means being fully present and engaged in a situation. Focusing on a real moment with someone else can allow them to feel seen and heard and also help you build stronger relationships. Students should practice this skill both inside and outside of the classroom.

Journalism freshman Emma Slaughter shared her perspective on active listening as a student.

“I feel like active listening is not natural for a lot of people,” Slaughter said. “Like with social media, I just feel like my mind is just always running and talking.”

Our phones stimulate our minds in a way that makes it difficult to be present and slow down. This affects our relationships with those we care about the most and our academic and professional careers. 

However, remember that you are your biggest advocate. It can mean sending well-thought-out emails to professors, attending their office hours, or simply making a conscious effort to pay attention in class. Whether inside or outside the classroom, active listening is key to engaging in a relevant way.

Nik Palomares, a professor in the department of communication studies, explained what valuing and practicing effective communication and active listening looks like. 

“When we talk about those misunderstandings or when we communicate about how we communicate, we tend to reach more common ground and realize that we might be using different definitions for the same sort of words,” Palomares said.

The first step to practicing active listening is understanding how an individual would like to be communicated with. We tend to forget the importance of communication itself, as it can differ greatly from person to person — especially across personal or professional settings. 

Much like how people learn differently, people benefit from various modes of conversation depending on the situation. 

“You can always ask the person, ‘Hey are you looking to vent here? Are you looking to get distracted? Are you looking to find a solution? How can I provide you with what you need as someone who is listening?’” Palomares said. “We can talk about talking …”

When building strong interpersonal relationships, active participation in a conversation helps eliminate misunderstandings and promote positive interaction reciprocally. You let the other person truly feel heard while also opening up about how they can do the same for you.

Students who implement active listening can cultivate empathetic communication skills to remain more present. Moreover, since active listening is a skill with benefits throughout our lives, we must start now by creating opportunities to practice. 


Gannon is a journalism freshman from Houston, Texas.

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