Active and Open Listening

Active listening is one of the core skills of good leaders. While these skills do not come naturally to everyone, and trying to remember everything can seem daunting, don’t worry! Keep practicing. The more you do it, the easier it is to remember everything and the more naturally it will come to you. Here is what you need to know in order to hone your listening skills:

  • Be engaged. When someone is talking to you, put your phone down and make eye contact! While you don’t have to lock eyes for the entire conversation, it should be clear to the person you are listening to, they are your primary focus. If someone comes up to you to say hello, while you are already engaged in a conversation, ask them to wait for a moment or ask them if you can check in with them later.
  • Use listening body language: don’t cross your arms and lean away from the other person. Be relaxed, lean forward slightly, and nod to show you are listening to what they are saying (but be careful not to “auto-nod!”).
  • Participate. There will be opportunities for you to respond to the other person. You can let them know you are paying attention by paraphrasing back to them (“So what I hear you saying is…”). This gives them the chance to clarify their thoughts if necessary. Then you can respond to the point.
  • Follow up after the conversation. Circle back around to that person in a few days if you have a new thought, or if you have done something about the concern they brought to you. This lets them know you are still thinking about the concern and are committed to making a difference, and validates what they have to say is worthwhile.
  • If you don’t have time in the moment to have a conversation, that’s okay. If someone needs to talk to you, but you’re busy, you can take a few minutes out of whatever you’re doing to reinforce what they have to say is important to you by setting up a time to have an in-depth conversation. Be committed during the short scheduling conversation! Don’t make a vague agreement over your shoulder to meet later as you’re heading out the door.