• RichYarnold

Practical Tips for Active Listening

In previous blog posts I have talked about the importance of soft skills for Change Management professionals. In particular, the importance of practicing active and empathic listening. To build on these posts, I felt it necessary to share some tips on how to do just that


These tips are not exhaustive. There are loads of books, courses and other material that goes into much more detail on how to deepen your ability to really listen. This post is only scratching the surface. The aim though is to zero in on some quick and practical things you can do in your next conversation, meeting or workshop to be a better listener.

They may seem really obvious, and my intention is not to patronise. It is to convey that being an active listener is something anyone can achieve by following a few simple steps and being aware of one’s approach to listening.

Give them a go and let me know how you get on. Leave a comment below or contact me on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email via the Get In Touch button above. You can also subscribe to receive updates when new blog posts go live. You can do this via the Login / Register button, also at the top of the page.

5 Practical Tips For Being A Better Listener

1. Let the person speak

Sounds obvious but don’t interrupt someone while they’re speaking. Wait until they stop talking or at least take a break between sentences before you say what you want to say. Speaking over someone or trying to get your own point across before they’ve finished will invariably lead to them being disengaged.

2. Playback what you’ve heard

By repeating back what the other person has said, or asking questions to clarify their views has two benefits. It reinforces the message in your own mind and it gives the other person an opportunity to either confirm that your interpretation is right, or give additional information to clarify their points. The outcome is the other person feels happy that their message has been understood.

3. Use your eyes as well as your ears

Look at the person’s body language and the inflection of their words to gain more insight into the message they are trying to convey. Add this information to the words you are hearing and respond in an appropriate way.

4. Remove distractions

Distractions can be both internal and external. To avoid internal disruptions, you must listen without any pre-conceived perceptions or prejudices. if you do then your interpretation of the message will be wrong. External disruptions are generated by your environment e.g. background noise or the proximity of others. Limit these by having conversations in appropriate places i.e. a quiet room away from everyone else when discussing someone’s personal issues. Another example of external distractions is your mobile phone. If you want to really listen to someone, put your phone out of reach so you don't get interrupted by calls, texts or notifications.

5. Don’t jump to solution mode without being invited to

It’s natural to want to help someone we’re listening to and offer ideas to resolve the problems we’re hearing. While our intentions are good, any offers to resolve a problem should be appropriate and timely. The best approach is to let someone talk themselves out before offering any potential solutions to their situations. Sometimes, they just want to vent. Sometimes they will ask you directly for ideas to resolve the situation. If this doesn’t happen, then ask the person if they’d like some ideas on how to resolve the situation. Never force your ideas on to them.


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