5 Tips for Listening Well

5 Tips for Listening WellWhile the ability to listen well is not often discussed in the business world, it is a skill possessed by most of those businesspersons who achieve lasting success. It builds trust, facilitates effective communication, and conveys affirmation. Listening well comes naturally to some people, but it can also be learned.

Here are five tips for listening well.

1. Be an active listener. To listen really well, you must expend some energy! Simply hearing the words that are spoken is not sufficient. Focus on the other person’s demeanor and body language as well as the words. Don’t interrupt unnecessarily, but if you miss a word or can’t understand an argument, interrupt the other person to get clarification. Nod if you understand a point the speaker is making, and ask a question – at an appropriate opportunity – if you don’t. Take notes if it helps you to follow what’s being expressed.

2. Weed out distractions. Put away the cell phone, and turn away from any other screen until its outside your field of vision. If you’re near a hallway, keep your eyes on your conversation partner so that colleagues walking by won’t catch your eye. Put papers – other than any materials that are the topic of your discussion – to one side. Unless you’re expecting an important message, don’t answer rings or knocks for the duration of the conversation.

3. Read between lines. It’s not always enough to listen to the words being spoken. If you notice that the other person is avoiding a topic or seems anxious about some aspect of the situation being discussed, try to figure out what he or she is feeling. It may be more important to understand what is being omitted than to understand what is being said.

4. Avoid knee-jerk reactions. We all have topics that trigger within us a quick and powerful reaction (positive or negative). Try to suppress that type of reaction when you’re listening to a co-worker. Keep your mind open to the sequence of reasoning being articulated. Identify your internal responses as the conversation proceeds, but stay engaged rather than coming to a conclusion before the other person has finished speaking.

5. Give something back. Listening well never ends with your conversation partner’s last word. Whether or not you are able to provide a definitive response to what was said, it’s important to give something back. You can acknowledge that you understand the importance of what was expressed, for example, or make a commitment to provide a response at a later time.

Listening well is a key skill in the repertoire of a manager – and any other employee with significant workplace responsibilities. It is not referred to as frequently as the converse (speaking well), but it can make the difference between a positive workplace encounter and a negative one.


"Every good conversation starts with good listening" - Mike Arauz, a Senior Strategist at Undercurrent


Opened by Antoine Fournier, Head of ECM, Input and Output management, Zurich Insurance
Dec 14, 2013.

Participate in the debate




Jesse Domingo Leadership Adviser, Strategist
Dec 18, 2013

Interruptions and distractions is what makes one lose focus when listening... and that's the key to being a good listener - "focus" - without it, you both waste time, even with you trying to nod or react or say something ... things are just shallow.

Try to understand before thinking of being understood.

With this in mind, you build a good bond as well.

Comment on this response