The Responding Stage
The responding stage is the stage of the listening process wherein the listener provides verbal and/or nonverbal reactions based on short- or long-term memory. Following the remembering stage, a listener can respond to what she hears either verbally or non-verbally. Nonverbal signals can include gestures such as nodding, making eye contact, tapping her pen, fidgeting, scratching or cocking her head, smiling, rolling her eyes, grimacing, or any other body language. These kinds of responses can be displayed purposefully or involuntarily. Responding verbally might involve asking a question, requesting additional information, redirecting or changing the focus of a conversation, cutting off a speaker, or repeating what a speaker has said back to her in order to verify that the received message matches the intended message.
Nonverbal responses like nodding or eye contact allow the listener to communicate her level of interest without interrupting the speaker, thereby preserving the speaker/listener roles. When a listener responds verbally to what she hears and remembers—for example, with a question or a comment—the speaker/listener roles are reversed, at least momentarily.
Responding adds action to the listening process, which would otherwise be an outwardly passive process. Oftentimes, the speaker looks for verbal and nonverbal responses from the listener to determine if and how her message is being understood and/or considered. Based on the listener's responses, the speaker can choose to either adjust or continue with the delivery of her message. For example, if a listener's brow is furrowed and her arms are crossed, the speaker may determine that she needs to lighten her tone to better communicate her point. If a listener is smiling and nodding or asking questions, the speaker may feel that the listener is engaged and her message is being communicated effectively.