Effective Listening

Islamic Etiquettes to Effective Listening 

By Khalid Iqbal – Founder Rahmaa Institute

“We were given two ears but only one mouth, because listening is twice as important and hard as talking.”

Prophet Muhammad Ways of Communication 

Our Prophet Mohammad used to pay complete attention to the person that he was communicating with; giving the person the feeling that he or she was the most important person. He would turn his complete body towards the person making eye contact. His body language would reflect to the wants, feelings or thought being expressed. He would allow the person to complete his/her thoughts and would paraphrase to let the person know what he understood before responding to the communication. His message was brief but concise and comprehensive that would deliver the message in easy language.

Speaker’s Issues Adding to the Communications Barriers

  • Inappropriate voice volume/tone too low or too high for comfort.
  • Complexity of the message: difficult language, making the message too complex,
  • Too many unnecessary details or too many issues adding to the complexity of the message.
  • Getting lost, forgetting your point or the purpose of the interaction.
  • Body language or nonverbal elements contradicting or interfering with the verbal message, angry face for a normal message or vice versa.
  • Paying too much attention to how the other person is taking the message, or how the person might react.
  • Inappropriate method of message delivery medium.

Listener’s Issues 

  • Being preoccupied and not listening.
  • Prejudging what is being communicated
  • Preparing an answer instead of listening
  • Being anxious to respond that you listen mainly to find an opening to get the floor.
  • Formulating your own rebuttal while the other is speaking.
  • Listening to your own personal beliefs about what is being said.
  • Being judgmental about the speaker or the message.
  • Not asking for clarification if unclear of what was communicated.


The Three Basic Listening Modes

1.    Competitive or Combative Listening happens when we are more interested in promoting our own point of view than in understanding or exploring someone else’s view. We either listen for openings to take the floor, or for flaws or weak points we can attack. As we pretend to pay attention we are impatiently waiting for an opening, or internally formulating our rebuttal and planning our devastating comeback that will destroy their argument and make us the victor.

2.    Attentive Passive Listening we are hearing and understanding the other person’s point of view but remain passive and do not reflect or react. This sometimes creates issues between the two communicating parties that may lead to misunderstanding and conflict.

3.    Active or Reflective Listening is the single most useful and important listening skill. In active listening we are also genuinely interested in understanding what the other person is thinking, feeling, wanting or what the message means, and we are active in checking out our understanding before we respond with our own response. It involves restate and or paraphrasing our understanding of their message and reflects it back to the sender for verification. This verification or feedback process is what distinguishes active listening and makes it effective.


Listening Tips

Usually it is important to paraphrase and use your own words in verbalizing your understanding of the message. Parroting back the words verbatim may be annoying and does not necessarily ensure accurate understanding of what is being communicated.

Depending on the purpose of the interaction and your understanding of what is relevant, you could reflect back the other persons:

  1. Account of the facts.
  2. Thoughts and beliefs.
  3. Feelings and emotions.
  4. Wants, needs or motivation.
  5. Hopes and expectations.


Our Prophet Mohammad used to turn his complete body towards the other person and pay full attention to what was being communicated.

Our Prophet Mohammad used to turn his complete body towards the other person and pay full attention to what was being communicated.

Use eye contact and body language that gives positive message. Avoid looking at your watch or at other people or activities around the room.

Face and lean toward the speaker and nod your head, indicating your receptiveness.
Be careful about crossing your arms and appearing closed or critical.
Be empathetic and nonjudgmental. You can be accepting and respectful of the person and their feelings and beliefs without invalidating or giving up your own position, or without agreeing with the accuracy and validity of their view.

Know when to quit using active listening. Once you accurately understand the sender’s message, it may be appropriate to respond with your own message. Don’t use active listening to hide and avoid revealing your own position.

If you are confused and know you do not understand, either tell the person you don’t understand and ask him/her to say it another way, or use your best guess. If you are incorrect, the person will realize it and will likely attempt to correct your misunderstanding.

Active listening is a very effective first response when the other person is angry, hurt or expressing difficult feelings toward you, especially in relationships that are important to you.


Become a more effective listener. Practice the active listening technique and make it one of your communication skills.


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