10 Tools For Active Listening

One of life’s great challenges is to listen well and as such, it is the most important communication skill.  Often, we are tempted to think about what our next response will be rather than to listen.  Or, we believe we already know what the other person is going to say, so we simply interrupt them or just wait impatiently for our turn.  Listening, truly listening, with complete focus, is a key skill and one of the most important compliments we can give another human being.  I also is the basis for developing and maintaining the important long-lasting relationships in all aspects of our lives.

Here are 10 ways to make sure you are actively listening:

  1. Stop talking! It is pretty much impossible to listen and speak at the same time, so if you are really going to listen you need to stop talking.
  2. Put the other person at ease. Give them the space, time, and “permission” to speak their piece.  How we look at them, how we stand or sit, makes a huge difference.  Relax, and let them relax as well as it will make it easier for them to tell you what is on their mind.
  3. Show the other person that you want to hear them. Make eye contact, nod when you can agree, ask them to explain further if you do not understand.   Listen carefully to them and their words, rather than just waiting for your turn to speak and in the meantime formulating what you will say next.
  4. Remove distractions. Good listening means being willing to turn off the TV, close a door, turn off your phone, or stop reading your mail or newspaper.  Give the speaker your full attention, and let them know that you are truly focusing on what they have to say.
  5. Empathize with the other person. When someone is telling you something personal, painful, or something with you which intensely disagree, take a moment to stand in their shoes, try to look at the situation from their point of view and be more empathetic, because you might actually learn something you did not know or understand.
  6. Be patient. Some people take longer to find the right words, to make a point or clarify an issue.  Give the speaker time to get it all out before you jump in with your comments or suggestions.
  7. Watch your own emotions. If what they are saying creates an emotional response in you, be extra certain to listen carefully, with attention to the intent and full meaning of their words.  When we are angry, frightened, or upset, we often miss critical parts of what is being said to us.
  8. Be very slow to disagree, criticize, or argue. Even if you disagree, let them be able to express their point of view.  If you respond in a way which makes the other person defensive, even if you “win” the argument, you may lose something far more valuable!  Remember, they are entitled to their opinion and again, if you truly listen you may learn something new from their perspective.
  9. Ask lots of questions. Ask the speaker to clarify, to say more, give an example, or explain further.  It will help them to speak more precisely and it will help you to hear and understand them more accurately.
  10. Stop Talking! This is both the first and the last point because all other tools depend on it. Remember, you cannot listen and speak at the same time.

Nature gave us two ears and only one tongue, which is a gentle hint that we should listen twice as much as we speak!


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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    • That is so true, Larry…..we cannot talk and listen at the same time and we learn more if we listen more, that is why we have two ears and one tongue! Too much conflict results from poor listening and that makes our lives more stressful…..who needs that?????

  1. All useful tips that you should remember not only at work.
    Listening is a very complex skill that requires training, commitment to application, intentionality. Furthermore, active listening presupposes an approach to participatory communication, oriented to the enhancement of the interactive exchange between the subjects involved, attentive to the emotional component. In order to manage relations at work optimally, it is first necessary to listen. Not a listening to any, but a listening conscious and attentive to the needs of the other. An intentional act that engages our attention to grasp what the other refers to us both explicitly and implicitly, both verbally and non-verbally. An open and available listening, not only to the other and what he says, but also to himself to listen to his reactions, to be aware of the limits of his own points of view.
    It is essential to avoid expressing any judgment and communicating our understanding.

    • Hi Aldo, Thanks for reading this article and for adding your valuable insights. I am sure the readers will appreciate your comments.