Developing Your Talent

Missing Half the Conversation? Tips to Practice Active Listening

By JC Heinen on May 31, 2012

When listening, are you focused, interested and engaged?  Or distracted and impatient?  Perhaps you’ve had the experience of someone bowed over the conference room table texting while you’re presenting at a meeting. Maybe you’ve heard the click clack of computer keys at the other end of a conference call.  In a business world where multi-tasking is the norm, active listening is becoming a lost art.  Yet the ability to listen is one of the key components of effective communication and leadership. 

In “Learning to be a Power Listener,” Fast Company blogger Ernie Ferrari writes, “To improve your listening skills, you must first figure out exactly what is keeping you from seeking and hearing the information you need.” 

Active listening is a great engagement tool, demonstrating that you are interested in and value the perspective of your employees. Consider your listening style and practice these skills:

• Face the speaker and maintain eye contact
• Keep distractions to a minimum
• Give the speaker your full attention
• Actively engage by responding appropriately
• Let the speaker finish 

Good listening skills can have a tremendous impact on your effectiveness as well as provide a solid foundation for building strong relationships.  Some studies report that we pay attention to less than half of what we hear.  Practicing these tips can help you hear the whole message.

4 Responses to “Missing Half the Conversation? Tips to Practice Active Listening”

  1. Lisa Salzman

    I’m a growing fan of the LHH blog and specifically, posts on communication and leadership styles. This one really struck a chord as it’s a personal pet peeve of mine when others don’t appear to be listening to you or to one another; in business and/or at home.

    At a previous job, I worked at a boutique marketing agency that focused on the power of connecting people through meaningful conversation, and as you’ve pointed out here, active listening is a lost art, as is face-to-face, authentic discourse… both a victim of today’s growing (albeit exciting) digital age.

    Looking forward to reading more.

  2. Ernie Perez

    Good comments. Listening is a critical and often underused success skill during the interview. Often interviewees are so focused on ‘selling themselves’ they omit listening for what the interviewer needs to buy.

    • Lee Hecht Harrison

      Very true, Ernie. We tell job seekers to stay focused, pay attention to the tone and body language of the interviewer, and to paraphrase and/or summarize a question to ensure you are answering correctly.

    • Margie Dirks

      Ernie is right. As a career coach, I find that one of the most common mistakes people make in interviewing is that they talk too much, and fail to listen to the interviewer’s key priorities. Taking the time to practice your interview answers out loud before you go to the interview will help you to be better prepared, more relaxed and will allow you to really listen to the nuances of the questions being asked and information being provided.


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