The Listening Side of Communications

Really Good Listening Habits Are Hard to Find


When is the last time you had a conversation with someone where you really felt like the person you were talking with was engaged in the conversation and was really interested in what you were communicating?

Their body language, eye contact, and tone of voice were focused and inviting and surrounding distractions seemed irrelevant. Every one of us can remember a meaningful conversation and what it felt like to “be heard.” Being heard is an important component to how we measure our self-worth and self-confidence.

Emails, voice mails, text messages, and the limit of 140 characters on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are the very common forms of today’s communication. Technology has given us the ability to share ideas with anyone, at anytime, and anywhere in the world. Our global environment requires this technology to be successful, and it will foster continued innovation at an awe-inspiring rate.

However, the true essence of business is built around people and the future innovations people can and will inspire. Every piece of technology existing today and every new innovation that will inspire our world tomorrow is a collaboration of people listening, communicating, and working together.

I am the first to admit the advances to communication portals and the speed at which we can communicate are necessary. I am only suggesting that we do not forget to really listen along the way. Take a step back and evaluate your listening ability and techniques. Do any of the following apply to you?

  • Check and answer email while talking on the phone (personally or professionally)
  • Respond to texts while in a meeting or at your child’s soccer game
  • Watch your children IM or text while doing homework or at the dinner table
  • Spend time updating your Facebook wall instead of reaching out to someone meaningful and having a real conversation
  • Engage in a conversation with an employee, while you shuffle papers and respond to a receptionist call that Mr. Smith is on line two

If we are honest with ourselves, we are all guilty of one if not many of these listening infractions. We get caught up in the crazy and scattered pace of life. Let’s take a step back and remind ourselves that good listening is essential to effective communication, and here are some simple habits that can improve our listening ability:

  • Take time to listen. Stop, take a deep breath to clear your mind, and really listen to an employee sharing ideas or to how your son’s day at school unfolded.

  • Be attentive. Put the world on hold and pay 100% attention to the person talking with you. They believe what they have to say is important and so should you.

  • Listen with an open mind. Don’t be judgmental. Listen to everything the person is communicating and before judging the value of the information, ask questions to better understand the scope and depth.

  • Listen for feelings. People repeat those things that are important to them. Listen to what is said but also to how it is said. Feelings often speak much louder than words.

  • Listen for retention. While listening, summarize the highlights of the conversation in your mind so you can play it back to the person with whom you are talking. It will help you implement the important details later, and it will send the important message that you were really listening.

Finally, listen to others like you want to be listened to … you will be astounded as to how much more you will get accomplished and learn if you stop and really listen. And, you will be amazed how much you miss if you don’t!

Tammy A.S. Kohl is President of Resource Associates Corporation. For over 30 years, RAC has specialized in business and management consulting, strategic planning, leadership development, executive coaching, and youth leadership. For more information visit or contact RAC directly at 800.799.622