The Power of Active Listening for Optimal Communication

Have you considered how well you are communicating? That said – does anyone consider their communication abilities and how they affect their lives, jobs, and others? Turns out someone does – Charlotte Wittenkamp. And she clearly delineated her reasonings in a brief reply to a post written by Ali Anani Ph.D. on 6/27.

Charlotte tells us; “As writing and reading are different from talking, I am aware that I may have misunderstood something or that my words can land differently than I intended, so upping my commenting requires that I am prepared to apologize if I misread/write. That is also a skill set I need practicing”.

Congrats to Charlotte for taking stock of her communication abilities and key points she believes need to be honed and polished.

Whether you are writing (emailing or replying to a post) or speaking, before you become a good communicator you must become a good listener. Here are a few prime reasons why.  First, it’s the best way to determine what’s actually being said; second – how to respond to that information or – third – if you should respond at all. Writing to respond to a post or message is also included within this group.

Listening skills are those which contribute to your ability to accurately receive information when speaking to or otherwise communicating with others; even reading and processing what’s being said in an email or post.  Plus good listening skills are key to effective communication  – whether in personal relationships or dealings with others from co-workers, to clients, those who serve you to top brass.

What makes a good listener and why does it lead to becoming a good communicator?

As simple as it sounds, good listeners make a speaker cognizant of the fact they are attentive and hearing what’s being said. They make good eye contact, and occasionally smile and/or nod to continue showing engagement. Unless the speaker pauses it’s best not to interrupt with your own comments; it may throw them off track, disconnecting them from their thoughts. If the opportunity arises – get clear by asking good questions utilizing their comments. Charlotte Wittenkamp does this well.

Listening skills are a major part of becoming a better communicator.

Listening helps you improve your human skills, and expand your networks and relationships. Unfortunately, many tend to talk over the person speaking, neglecting listening, often failing to understand the situation at hand or to provide a solid response.

In fact, bad listening habits can cause the loss of a valued relationship, or job and bring on other unnecessary losses or/or mistakes.

On the other hand, if you are reading what a writer is saying, re-read the post or information provided before responding. A second read usually uncovers information a first may not.  Plus, a second read provides the opportunity to rethink what is more important to comment on. Take it slower with a second read; it may stimulate other thoughts and feelings you overlooked with the first. You may realize what seemed so important in a first read, and rush to comment on, may be far from what you decide to comment on in the second read.

Your tone is chief when communication is involved.

To be a good communicator one must be mindful of tone; it can make or break a relationship, lose a client, a deal, or a job. In short, it can negatively affect the way an individual engages with you. If your tone is flat and uninterested sounding, it can immediately put people off. Instead, vary your inflection; it can help show interest, excitement, and emphasize valuable points. And, most importantly, it’s an easy way to focus on the individual you’re listening to. You can also ‘verbally model’ – meaning speaking softly when they do, laughing or smiling when they do as well.

When reflecting their own tone back at them, therapists tell us people begin to feel more comfortable since they are drawn to voices and tones similar to their own. Also – when writing to respond to a post or email follow their lead. Unless you disagree – and by the way, it’s perfectly okay to state you agree to disagree, that should not stop you from writing your comments if you manage your tone and steer clear of insulting them.

Finally –

When it comes to relationships and jobs, your ability to communicate well may be the number one skill you have as well as the top skill which helps you perform your job effectively and successfully and continue your journey through life.

Charlotte’s final statement was – “Words have enormous power; we should never underestimate them”. Perfectly said!


Jean L. Serio
Jean L. Serio
JEAN is a certified Human Resources professional with more than twenty-five years of experience in recruitment, interviewing, job training and development, resume, and LinkedIn Profile writing and review. The last 5 as a Certified Interview Success Coach, CEIC. With a passion for training, she guides others in first understanding their skills and strengths and how to best present themselves during an interview to help them secure the job. Her skills and expertise are also utilized to optimally prepare clients for confidently engaging with HR, hiring pros and decision-makers, and guiding them in how to enthusiastically and professionally respond during an interview rather than fearing the process. Her solid experience, coupled with expertise in the unspoken workings of the interview and hiring process, helps individuals prepare to present their achievements, skills, and expertise not only in a professional but compelling, way using stories of achievements which help the interviewee engage the interviewer or hiring a pro to effectively respond to questions to help raise their get-hired opportunities. Jean has been featured in Forbes;; BLR-Daily HR Advisor; ERE’s Daily HR Advisor; Next Ave. division of PBS; Medium; Entrepreneur HQ Magazine; Self Growth; beBee International, CBS, and NBC online and more. Her past has also included workshop trainings for HR, hosting hiring forums, speaking at job conferences for both job seekers and hiring pros, and more.

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  1. Thank you for your kind words, Jean, and for providing me with such amble opportunities to reflect and use mine, Ali.

    I liked what you wrote about “second reading” (or third or more), Jean. I have often found that I am ready to react but upon rereading, it may be something entirely different that catches my eye as the nugget in the post.

    Some people only read a book once or watch a movie once. They want to know the narrative. Others reread for the pleasure of understanding the characters, once the excitement of the narrative and suspense over the still unknown ending doesn’t stand in the way. It can be difficult to hold both suspense and curiosity about people in our mind at the same time. I wonder if something similar goes on for reading posts?

    • I’m glad you realized reading a second time could provide other invaluable info. For some, as you suggest, it’s reading to get the gist of something; which isn’t always a good thing. There is so much which can be overlooked in reading for overall information only. In short, you may be taking in just the tip of the iceberg.

      I, personally, read most things twice to ensure I clearly understand what’s being said. For example – Harvey Lloyd. I always read his posts and messages twice; some paragraphs 3x. Also Ali Anani’s posts as well. I do so partly to help me form a solid response. How can one respond not knowing exactly – or within reason – what’s being said; one can’t. Plus it’s the same with listening – only in tuning in to the speaker do we come to understand what’s being said; and receive any value from it. Also important to remember – our comments and online replies remain on the internet for anyone to read at any time. It should give people pause when responding to posts.

      Thanks for the read Charlotte; much appreciated.

  2. Great post, Jean

    Poor communication builds poor relationship.
    Interrupting people is an indirect way of saying to the talking person that what you say is unimportant and I know more than you do, It is a bad habit that should be “interrupted” and not the speaker.

    I liked very much your highlighting “When reflecting their own tone back at them, therapists tell us people begin to feel more comfortable since they are drawn to voices and tones similar to their own.”
    This is a key point that many of us tend to neglect.

    I thank you for the mention.

    • Absolutely true, Ali Anani – poor communication builds poor relationships. And – totally agree – interrupting is not only bad but ignorant. All of us want to be heard; however one should pay attention to what the speaker is saying and only then will you gather solid info on which to reply. Plus sometimes that individual only wants you to listen.

      Regarding tone – when you consider relationships with a significant other, friends and co-workers you can often see how close they are by the fact they repeat back what was said plus mimic the tone of the other – lowering or raising their voice as necessary to match that of the other. It can show intimacy, friendship, appreciation for example. One can develop good relationships – even with people just met – when one mimics their tone. My mother-in-law and I had an excellent relationship. When she wanted to share something more personal she would lean forward and lower her voice. I realized she intended to share something for my ears only, leaned forward as well and prepared myself to intently listen and quietly respond. It was good training for dealing with co-workers and others.