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Active Empathic Listening (AEL)

The Active-Empathic Listening Scale
The Active-Empathic Listening Scale (AELS) was originally developed by Drollinger et al (2006) to assess effective versus ineffective listening from the point of view of customers. Bodie (2011) refined and adapted this 11-item scale to a more general social context.

 The scale has since been adapted to measure interlocutor perceptions of AEL after a conversation (Bodie, Jones, Vickery, Hatcher, & Cannava, 2014) as well as to code for AEL from an objective observer’s perspective (Bodie & Jones, 2012). 


11 Ways That Active Listening Can Help Your Relationships
Put active listening together with empathy to improve your relationships
Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.

"The Active Empathic Listening (AEL) measure that Gearhart and Bodie used in their study actually came from a model developed by Drollinger et al. (2006) as a way to help salespeople listen, and hence, sell more products. The AEL has 11 key items that indicate how well you sense, process, and respond when you listen to a communication partner.

The 11 items break down into 3 scales representing the three stages you need to go through in order to be an effective empathic listener. Active listening is only part of the skills. Active empathic listening shows that you also understand what's going on inside the mind of the speaker as if you were that person.

It's a concept that traces back to the client-centered approach of the well-known psychologist Carl Rogers. When you're empathically listening, you do more than hear, you show that you know how the other person feels."

Gearhart, C. C., & Bodie, G. D. (2011). Active-empathic listening as a general social skill: Evidence from bivariate and canonical correlations. Communication Reports, 24, 86-98. doi:10.1080/08934215.2011.610731 

Development and validation of the active empathetic listening scale
 27 December 2005

This article presents a scale to measure active empathetic listening (AEL) of salespeople. AEL is defined as a form of listening practiced by salespeople in which traditional active listening is combined with empathy to achieve a higher form of listening. 

The AEL scale is composed of three dimensions: 
  • sensing, 
  • processing, and 
  • responding.
 It emgeneration procedures and the results of three empirical studies are presented. 

Study 1 establishes that the item set is suitable for differentiating between effective and ineffective listeners from the point of view of customers.

Study 2 determines that the item set is suitable for use by self‐report of salespeople, establishes that it conforms to the three theoretical dimensions, and that it possesses convergent validity. 

Study 3 further refines the item set, confirms the dimensionality of the scale, and establishes that the scale possesses construct validity in the form of discriminant and nomological validity.  

Active-empathic listening as a general social skill: 
Evidence from bivariate and canonical correlations.
Communication Reports, 24, 86-98. doi:10.1080/08934215.2011.610731
Gearhart, C. C., & Bodie, G. D. (2011).

This study attempts to provide further validity evidence for a scale that measures the tendency to enact active-empathic listening (AEL), one type of listening noted as especially important in close relationships and associated contexts like supportive episodes. In particular, we investigated the degree to which AEL is empirically related to various general social skills that reflect interaction competencies such as emotional sensitivity.

Strong correlations between a measure of AEL and four of the six social skill dimensions measured by the social skills inventory (SSI) provide validity evidence for this scale. The paper concludes with a discussion of future research possibilities.