Are you ListeningMeet Billie–our little terrier adopted from the Pasadena Humane Society a few months ago. Here she is demonstrating three signs of a good listener: Ears open. Mouth closed. Eyes attentive.

Effective communication is two-way communication. Broadcasting + listening. Most of us are really good at the former, not always so good at the latter.

Whether you are communicating one-on-one — in a professional or personal relationship — or whether you are communicating with a larger audience of customers, employees or other stakeholders, your reward for good listening skills will be enhanced understanding and engagement.

Here are our tips for improved listening.

  • Focus on the person speaking. Make good eye contact.
  • Remove/ignore items or sounds that distract.
  • Focus on the information he/she is trying to impart and the feelings he/she is trying to convey.
  • As you listen:
    • Ask yourself, “What am I hearing?”
    • Ask yourself, “What feelings am I ‘hearing’?”
    • Ask yourself, “What is the message?”
    • Don’t react. Refrain from sharing your feelings for the moment.
    • Avoid arguing (in your head) with the message you are hearing.
  • Confirm and clarify the message.
    • Let the other person breathe a moment. Play back what you heard:   “What I hear you saying is…..”
    • Ask simple questions: how, what, why, which? Be sure you understand what the speaker’s words mean, as certain words may hold different meanings/associations/connotations according to a person’s background and experience, and therefore may carry emotional connections.
  • Ask the speaker what he/she would like to see happen next. BE CAREFUL not to try to remedy the situation for him/her. Your job is to listen.
  • Encourage the speaker to take the next step or, if appropriate, suggest that you meet again to continue the conversation.
  • Thank the speaker for sharing with you. That will go a long way in your relationship.

For tips on how to demonstrate that you’re listening to specific groups such as customers, employees and others, email us at and we’ll be in touch to listen to you.

Recommended resources:

  • Are You Really Listening? Keys to Successful Communication by Paul J. Donoghue, Ph.D., and Mary E. Siegel, Ph.D.
  • RSA Video Short: Dr. Brené Brown, “The Power of Empathy”