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  • Writer's pictureKaity Meade

The Importance of Shutting Up and Being an Active Listener

Lately, I have taken a break creating content and sharing my voice with the design community. Instead, I have been focusing my attention on listening to my fellow designers. I have become more involved in design groups and participating in more intimate discussions. When you take a moment to step back and let others speak, you can learn a lot about your community and yourself.

Not sure what the difference between active and passive listening is? Let's quickly define it!

Active listening is making an effort to listen and respond to the speaker in order to have a clear understanding of what the speaker is saying.

Passive listening is simply hearing without reacting, creating a one-way conversation.

There's a lot to say about someone who can sit back, listen, and react. So many of us find ourselves listening to what our peers are saying but not hearing them out.

As designers, how are we supposed to create solutions for our clients without fully understanding their problems? To grasp what your clients and users need, you need to first know how to be an active listener.


Here are five simple steps to become a better active listener. (reference:

  1. Pay Attention: Recognize not only the speaker's verbal cues but their nonverbal cues as well. Put aside distractions, listen to their body language, and make eye contact with the speaker.

  2. Show That You are Engaged: Nod, smile, and use small comments to encourage the speaker to continue to talk.

  3. Offer Feedback: This will both show the speaker that you are engaged and interested in their conversation as well as require you to hear what they are saying so that you can provide meaningful feedback. Ask questions to clarify points and reflect on what's being said.

  4. Don't Interrupt: This will only frustrate the speaker and waste time.

  5. Treat Your Speaker with Respect: Be honest with your response, but don't be disrespectful. You want to encourage them to speak their mind so that you can have a full understanding of their problems. Responding appropriately will encourage them to keep talking.


Active listening is not only a skill that is important as a designer, but it is crucial in everyday life. Listen to what the people around you are saying and react in positive and encouraging ways. This could drastically change your relationship with others, both in your professional and personal life.

- Kaity

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