How to improve Your Listening Skills

Listening is the skill that achieves the most frequent and biggest gaps in 360-degree feedback surveys. Managers and leaders often think they listen more effectively, than those on the receiving end. This is particularly true for outgoing personalities who find it difficult to think or influence others with their mouths closed! It can also challenge people who are very quick thinkers and have found a solution or developed a point of view ahead of everyone else.

Recognise what triggers poor listening from yourself – e.g. when someone starts to drone on and you just want him or her to get to the point. Once you know the triggers you can exercise extra discipline.

Key Points

Stop talking: this includes to the voice inside your head. Focus on the person speaking:

  • Put yourself in the other person’s position. Try and understand their viewpoint, their values, their stage of life etc.
  • Show interest – don’t do anything else and that includes thinking about doing something else!
  • Observe non-verbal behaviour to pick up unstated messages. Pay attention to tone of voice, eye contact, rate of speech etc.
  • Don’t interrupt – exercise tolerance
  • Listen for meaning – even things that have not been said. Ask about these if you think they are important omissions. Listen to figures of speech and examples given. Pick up the clues from the content .
  • Speak in positive terms whilst listening Avoid jumping in with evaluative, critical remarks. This is likely to cause withdrawal or defensiveness.
  • Give feedback via your non verbals -head nods, leaning forward and eye contact
  • Check for Understanding – rephrase what you think the other person has said

So What? Why bother being a good listener?

  • Effective leaders need good data to make decisions, solve problems and draft strategies. Poor listening will result in patchy data.
  • Listening demonstrates respect and empathy. Your people are going to be more open with you if they know they will be heard. They will also be more inclined to follow your leadership when you engage them by hearing them.
  • Listening empowers other people to express themselves But it doesn’t equate to you being disempowered. You can set boundaries by agreeing a time limit – I can spend 10 minutes on this with you right now. It also helps to let others know how you like to receive information – I find it helps me to get the headline/decision/outcome etc first followed by the background details.


Listen is Silence spelt backwards!