How are Your Listening Skills?

Leadership and listening skills

How Good Are Your Listening Skills?

I like to listen.  I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.  Most people never listen.

Ernest Hemmingway

In order to manage the ever-increasing workload, our lives are focused to processing as much as possible in the shortest time,.  This is further compounded by social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like, all of which demand time, and to which it is easy to become a “slave”.  How are these demands affecting your listening?  Look over the table below and remind yourself of the difference between poor and effective listening.

Poor v. Effective Listening Behaviour

The Poor Listener:

Is distracted by work, other people, interrruptions, noises etc

Body is oriented away from the speaker 

Gives no feedback (facial responsiveness, or other appropriate response 

Ignores speaker's non verbal communication

Interrupts and waits to speak 

Jumps to conclusions - focuses on symptoms and quick fixes

Takes criticism personally

Blames others.  Becomes defensive about the organisation or self and is judgemental and punishing when someone complains 

Blames the organisation.  Takes the side of the person complaining

Is thrown by stressed-out behaviour of others, and may become stressed-out in turn, Often lacks control of the situation

Judges others by opinions - prejudices, shuts down listening

The Effective Listener:

Focuses on the speaker and what is being said

Body is oriented towards the speaker 

Gives feedback and participates appropriately 

Tunes into the speaker's non verbal communication

Occasionally reflects and clarifies.  Allows the other person to finish what they are saying 

Is patient.  Sees complaints and negative criticism as opportunity for problem solving and learning.  Focuses on underlying causes

Avoids taking criticism personally 

Suspends judgement as to who is to "blame".  Has attitude to focus and find solutions which is seen as being more important than judgement

Doesn't blame.  Seeks solutions, is proactive for the future, not seeking revenge for actions in the past

Realises the other person must have had to "psych up" to make a complaint, and has respect.  Makes allowances for the other person's behaviour while listening

Suspends judgement on others - listens to what is being said, not who is saying it

Listens with head and heart

Skilled Listeners:

  • Pay attention – focus to the speaker
  • Indicate interest
  • Listen without judgement or prejudice
  • Observe and notice others’ body language and vocal usage
  • Ask questions to expand the other person’s thinking
  • Use the feedback loop to check understanding and show listening


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