So You Think You Can Listen?

Here is a tool you can use to evaluate your listening skills.

There are times when all of us listen effectively especially when the stakes are high for us. For instance we usually listen well when a boss is giving us performance feedback or the highway patrol person is giving us a ticket.

Other times our listening skills are less than stellar. We listen with half an ear, the other person has a sense that we are not fully engaged, and really we don’t ‘get it’ as far as they are concerned.

At the end of the day we can all improve our listening skills.

Here is a checklist that I use in my Cross-Cultural Communication Training Workshops.

Effective listening is a core competency we need in order to navigate the unfamiliar waters of other cultures.

 How to Use the List

1.  Tell someone you trust that you are wanting to improve your listening skills

2.  Ask them to observe you in a group situation and rate you on how well you listen

3.  Spend time with the observer going through the checklist and identify areas where you need to improve your listening skills.

4.  Evaluate each area as 1) Highly effective 2) Effective, or 3) Needs Improvement

 Listening Areas to Assess 


Eye contact. You neither had a fixed stare or appeared distracted.

Body language. Does the way you present yourself invite the person into a conversation or shut them out, show you are interested or that you are distracted? An obvious example of the latter is whether you yawn frequently, stare off into space, or have your arms crossed in a defensive manner.

Not interrupting. It did not appear that you were on the brink of wanting to say something. You let the person finish a thought.

Being fully present. Let the person that you are listening to be the judge on this category


Door openers. e.g. “You say it was a difficult situation, do you want to elaborate?”

Attentive silence. You are not afraid of silence or break it with a nervous statement or question.

Asked infrequent open questions. Do not solicit yes/no answers. If they say, “I don’t like my job” you could say  “What about your job don’t you like?”


Summarizing. A brief statement of what the person just said in their words

Paraphrasing. A brief statement of what the person just said in your words


Accurate Empathy. Ability to be aware, understand, and appreciate how other people feel. See the situation from the other’s point of view.

Feeling reflection. e.g. “You seem really hurt by the negative feedback you received

Your Results

How did you do in the various listening categories?

In what areas do you need to improve your listening skills?



About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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