Active listening is when you listen with an intentional effort to understand the point of view of others, their motivations, thoughts and expectations while suspending any judgment (Dahlen & DeCoster, 2018). Active Listening is a crucial aspect of communication that plays a significant role in developing interpersonal skills and establishing closer connections (Guffey, Loewy, & Almonte, 2019. This skill is essential for conflict resolution, problem-solving and providing constructive criticism (Eunson, 2019).

Active Listening acts as a bridge between emotional and intellectual capacities, incorporating elements of Emotional intelligence (EQ) and intelligence quotient (IQ). It enables individuals to discern between emotional and factual information, facilitating reliable communication. Striking a balance between emotions and intellect is essential, as an overemphasis on emotions can lead to unreliable information, while excessive focus on intellect can hinder relationship-building and create top-down leadership perceptions.

According to the CQ: Communication Quotient™ Integrated Model of Communication, active listening is intertwined with concepts such as Theory of Mind and empathy within the field of cognitive neuroscience. Theory of Mind refers to the understanding that others may have different thoughts and perspectives (Premack & Woodruff, 1978), while empathy involves the ability to share and comprehend others’ emotions (Decety & Jackson, 2006). Skilled communication, in the context of CQ: Communication Quotient™, entails employing theory of mind, empathy and active listening to develop a more comprehensive approach to language.

Active listening contributes to both IQ and EQ. In terms of Emotional Quotient, active listening serves as a key component as it facilitates the recognition, understanding and management of one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others (Salovey and Mayer, 1990; Goleman, 1995). Through active listening, individuals can gain a better understanding of other’s emotions and perspective, fostering stronger relationships and enabling effective communication.

With regards to IQ, Active listening facilitates the processing and integration of new information. When actively listening, individuals are more likely to retain and understand information, which can contribute to problem solving and decision-making processes (Coakley & Britt, 1991).

Active listening aids in the development of cognitive empathy and Theory of Mind, which are closely tied to both IQ and EQ. Cognitive empathy involves  comprehending and considering others’ perspectives (Decety & Lamm, 2006), while Theory of Mind encompasses the ability to recognize that individuals may possess different thoughts and beliefs (Premack & Woodruff, 1978). These concepts draw upon both cognitive processing and emotional understanding, highlighting their relevance to both IQ and EQ within the CQ: Communication Quotient™ framework.

By actively listening and engaging in meaningful dialogue, individuals can enhance their cognitive empathy and gain valuable insights and perspectives. This process supports the development of both IQ and EQ by facilitating a deeper understanding and integration of cognitive and emotional information.

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Guffey, M. E., Loewy, D., & Almonte, R. (2019). Essentials of Business Communication. Cengage Learning.

Eunson, B. (2019). Communicating in the 21st Century. John Wiley & Sons Australia.

Premack, D., & Woodruff, G. (1978). Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 4(4), 515-526.

Decety, J., & Jackson, P. L. (2006). A social-neuroscience perspective on empathy. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(2), 54-58.

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(3), 185-211.

Wolvin, A. D., Coakley, C. G., & Britt, M. A. (1991). Listening and Remembering: The Influences of Message Hearing Characteristics on Cognitive Processing. Human Communication Research, 18(2), 177-209. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2958.1991.tb00534.x

Decety, J., & Lamm, C. (2006). Human empathy through the lens of social neuroscience. Scientific World Journal, 6, 1146-1163. doi:10.1100/tsw.2006.221

Premack, D., & Woodruff, G. (1978). Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1(4), 515-526. doi:10.1017/S0140525X00076512