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Practical Active Listening Tips for Everyone

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Rabbitears I have heard it said that listening is a lost art. I couldn’t agree more. The other day I wrote a post on how distractions (particularly those dealing with technology) can erode the trust of leaders (click here to access that article). Why? Because we send clear messages that we don’t care to those we are speaking to when we aren’t focused on listening.

Active listening helps both the one listening and the one speaking. The one who is listening can learn and the one speaking can feel like someone cares. Here are some quick tips to help us all become better listeners. Try these today at work, home, church and any where else listening is required. Remember this is a skill that needs to be developed into a habit, so be patient. It will make a huge difference in your relationships.

Active Listening Steps

1.   Be prepared to listen and understand first, before trying to be understood. Often times the listener is trying to formulate a response to the talker while trying to listen at the same time and will often miss the message entirely.

2.   Give the person who is speaking your undivided attention and suspend any distractions.

3.   Use appropriate body language. Sit up and look the person in the eye and provide the talker with appropriate facial expressions, head motions and posture that say you are listening.

4.   Think ahead of what the talker is saying. Try to anticipate what the speaker is leading to and any types of conclusions that might be drawn. Try to read between the lines for meaning.

5.   Restate what the person says.

6.   Ask clarifying questions.

7.   Be in tune to your own feelings and emotions and put them in perspective.

What has your experience been? Do you have any other tips?


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Leave a Comment

  • Nicole DeFalco November 5, 2009, 4:26 pm

    Hi Mike, great post on a crucial topic for leaders. It seems that more and more people find it acceptable to multi-task during conversations. Active, attentive listening requires the discipline to follow the steps you’ve listed above. Because we think so much faster than we speak, people feel compelled to put the “gap” to good use (such as checking email, texting, tweeting, etc.). I’m always amazed at how people try to defend their actions by claiming they can listen and do other things. Multi-tasking while listening may squeeze out a tiny bit more productivity but at the cost of losing the other person’s trust. Even if someone is truly gifted enough to process what another person is saying while simultaneously engaging in other activities, it’s detrimental to the speaker and to the relationship with the speaker.

  • Mike Rogers November 5, 2009, 8:34 pm

    Thanks Nicole. I appreciate your comments. Multitasking while listening is just well, rude. In fact there really is no such thing as multitasking I have been told. They are retaining less and eroding trust at the same time. Leaders who care will work on developing good active listening skills.
    – Mike


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