Listening Skills

Use these listening skills activities to ensure you are doing more than hearing what your coworkers, managers, and clients have to say.

What is active listening?

In the workplace, people don't always say what they mean. Learning to become a better listener can greatly improve workplace communication. Active listening is listening beyond words in order to understand a deeper message. Active listeners are able to detect and reflect the feelings that give emotional energy to language.

Follow these tips to become a more active listener:

  • Focus your attention on the speaker and the topic. Find a quiet space where you can avoid distraction.
  • Set aside your own feelings and prejudices. Remind yourself that you're there to be the listener, not offer your opinion.
  • Pay attention to the speaker's body language and facial expressions. This is often the way to sense how someone is really feeling.
  • Use door openers. These statements convey interest and keep the person talking.
    Examples: "Tell me more..." "That sounds interesting..." "When did it happen..."
  • Paraphrase feelings accurately. The listener waits until the speaker pauses, as if expecting some sort of response from the listener. The listener makes a statement labeling the feeling he or she heard.
    Examples: "You're saying..." "You feel that..." "If I understand you, you feel this way about this situation..." "You say you feel ___________, but you seem ___________ when talking about this..."
  • Paraphrase content accurately. The listener waits until the speaker has finished speaking and repeats the content of what he or she has heard in his or her own words.
    Examples: "In other words, it is your decision to..." "These seem to be the key ideas you have expressed..."
  • Ask nonthreatening questions. Keep your questions to a minimum. Give the speaker an opportunity to think about the question before he or she responds. Try asking questions that will help the speaker arrive at his or her own conclusions.
    Examples: "How?" "What?" "Could?" "Would?" "Is?" "Are?" "Do?" "Did?"
  • Use acknowledgement responses. These statements pull together ideas and facts, as well as establish a basis for further understanding.
    Examples: "Mmm..." "Yes..." "Right..." "Certainly..."

Using these techniques, the listener feels validated and supported without being judged.