Improving Your Listening Skills

Highly effective listeners are few and far between.

Reflect on these statements;

“Can’t he just listen and validate my feelings? Why does he try to always fix the problem?”

“Every time we are on a conference call she is checking her email.”

“All people want from me is to be their audience”

Here is a tool you can use to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of your listening skills.

How to Use the List

1.   Tell someone you trust that you want 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: Highly effective, Effective, or Needs Improvement.

Listening Areas to Assess


Eye contact. You consistently made eye contact in a natural, attentive manner. You did not appear distracted by, for example, fidgeting, looking around the room, or staring.

Body language. Your relaxed body (for example, open arms or arms at your sides; eyes focused on the other) invited the person into a conversation. You did not shut them out or show you were distracted (by, for example, yawning frequently, staring off into space, or having your arms crossed in a defensive manner).

Not interrupting. You let the person finish a thought before speaking. You did not appear on the brink of wanting to say something.


Door openers. You invited the person to express himself or herself honestly. For example: “You say it was a difficult situation; do you want to elaborate?”

Attentive silence. You sat quietly and attentively. You were not afraid to sit together in silence. You did not break that silence with a nervous statement or question.

Occasionally asked open-ended questions. You did not solicit yes/no answers. If the person said, “I don’t like my job” you responded, for example, with: “What about your job don’t you like?”


Summarizing. Using the other person’s words, you showed you understood what the person said by making a brief, summary statement.

Paraphrasing. Using your words, you showed you understood what the person said by making a brief, summary statement.


Accurate empathy. You showed that you were aware, understood, and appreciated how the other person felt. You showed that you understood the situation from the other person’s point of view.

Reflecting the other’s feelings. You reflected back (or “mirrored”) how you interpreted the other’s emotions or reactions by saying, for example, “You seem really hurt by the negative feedback you received.


So after people observed and rated you, how effective were you as a listener?

What two skills are you willing to practice to become a better listener?



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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4 Responses to Improving Your Listening Skills

  1. mjthier says:

    Good advice, and there’s also the knowledge that listening is a habit formed over a lifetime in our brain, body and emotions. That means that all of our habits look different in each listener, and in each context, and with each interaction.

  2. mjthier says:

    Hello Good Thinkers: I just attended and presented at the International Listening Association conference and this important topic was discussed by researchers and practitioners alike. There does not seem to be any evidence that people listening less, but moreso, in different ways. Neuroscientists are just beginning to understand the influences technologies and work demands have on listening. This is a very good discussion,Cedricj and Jambar

    • cedricj says:

      Thanks for your insightful contribution to this discussion. I am sure there are many ways of listening but the key question is “does the other person feel heard?” Being attuned to others is a key component in the listening process.

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