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What is active listening and how does it relate to accountability?

Listening can be a passive activity. As you are listening, you can be distracted, superimposing your own thoughts, drifting.

Listening is work. In active listening, the listener restates in his or her own language what he or she heard the speaker say and his or her impression of what the speaker said. The speaker can then confirm that what was heard was what he or she intended. If it wasn't, the speaker can restate what he or she said. This can continue until the speaker confirms that he or she has been "heard."

Active listening is hard. You have to really listen to what is being said and confirm what you intend people to hear. Active listening gives proof that the listener has understood the speaker. Another advantage of active listening is that it keeps responsibility for solving problems with the speaker. If you do not understand what the speaker is intending, it is the speaker's responsibility to explain.

Accountability means doing what you say you are going to do. Often, a lack of accountability is due to miscommunication and unmet expectations. If we are going to hold people accountable, we need to ensure that they have heard the expectation and we have heard the commitment to meet the expectation.

In your conversations and meetings, frequently ask participants, "What is being said? What are you hearing?"

- Eileen L. Dohmann, RN, BSN, MBA, NEA-BC

(May 2012)