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Have you ever been in a meeting or a discussion and wondered if the other person was really listening?

Many people take their listening skills for granted. We often assume we’re listening and that others know they are being heard. But the reality is that we as leaders struggle with tasks and roles that directly relate to listening. Accepting criticism well, dealing with people’s feelings, and trying to understand what others think all require good listening skills.

Even with the best intentions, you may be sending signals that you aren’t listening at all. CCL’s Michael Hoppe, author of “Active Listening: Improve Your Ability to Listen and Lead,” explains that you may need to brush up on your listening skills if any of the following questions describe you. Do you:

  • Have a hard time concentrating on what is being said?
  • Think about what to say next rather than about what the speaker is saying?
  • Dislike it when someone questions your ideas or actions?
  • Give advice too soon and suggest solutions to problems before the other person has fully explained his or her perspective?
  • Tell people not to feel the way they do?
  • Talk significantly more than the other person talks?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone. To boost your listening skills, try these 5 helpful tips from Hoppe:

No. 1: Limit distractions. Silence technology and move away from distraction so that you can pay full attention to the other person. Take note of the person’s tone of voice and body language as well.

No. 2: Pay attention to what is being said, not what you want to say. Set a goal of being able to repeat the last sentence the other person says. This keeps your attention on each statement.

No. 3: Be OK with silence. You don’t have to always reply or have a comment. A break in dialogue can give you a chance to collect your thoughts.

No. 4: Encourage the other person to offer ideas and solutions before you give yours. Do 80 percent of the listening and 20 percent of the talking.

No. 5: Restate the key points you heard and ask whether they are accurate. “Let me see whether I heard you correctly…” is an easy way to clarify any confusion.

Being a strong, attentive listener will help you be a strong leader as well. Your co-workers will respect you, and you’ll likely see changes in your relationships with them as a result.


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