7 Tips to Lead By Active Listening

One of the most frustrating situations in life is not being heard by others. Conversely, when others feel they are not being heard by you, it can be equally frustrating for them.

Poor listening skills affect communication, and this may lead to costly mistakes, including workplace injuries. One way to improve communication is to practice active listening, defined as the act of deliberately hearing and comprehending the meaning of words spoken by another person in a conversation or speech. It usually involves indications of attentiveness, such as giving feedback in the form of paraphrasing what has been said by the other party to confirm understanding.

Read the information below and ask yourself how you can improve your active-listening skills.


Do not interrupt employees while they are expressing their ideas for a solution. Also, do not try to fill a pause in the conversation while the other person is thinking. Give the person time to gather his or her thoughts.

1. Be in the moment. Focus on the person talking to you. Put away your cell phone, face the person speaking, and make eye contact. Avoid unnecessary distractions, like multi-tasking or talking to others as they pass.

2. Ask open-ended or specific questions to clarify understanding. For example, “What changes can we make?” is an open-ended question. A specific question might be, “How many hours will it take?”

3. Affirm understanding by paraphrasing or summarizing what you have heard, for example, “Let me restate that to make sure I understand you correctly.” You can also mention a similar situation to demonstrate your engagement in the conversation.

4. Be mindful of receiver bias. It may be tempting to interrupt someone speaking or cut them off because you might already know what the speaker is going to say. Don’t do it. Be open minded and let the person say what he or she needs to say. Hold your biases in check and don’t give advice unless asked.

5. Watch your body language. Nonverbal cues say a great deal about our reactions to things we hear. For example, nodding affirmation conveys understanding. Frowning can tell the speaker you disagree or take exception with what was said. Avoid overly defensive or aggressive body language.

6. Empathize with the speaker. Try to put yourself in the speaker’s shoes and understand where he or she is coming from. Focus your attention on the speaker’s welfare and interests.

7. Be approachable and show interest in what others have to say. Making yourself open to casual conversation helps build relationships. Don’t be anxious to leave or show your impatience by checking your watch or phone.


After the employee is done speaking, ask questions to clarify your understanding or to help that person think through his or her thoughts more. Try open-ended questions instead of closed-ended questions.

  • Focus on what the speaker is saying.
  • Use positive, nonverbal actions, like facing the speaker, making eye contact, and nodding affirmation
  • Summarize or paraphrase what you hear.
  • Ask open-ended or specific questions to clarify what you have heard.

Note: These lists are not intended to be all-inclusive.

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This material is intended to be a broad overview of the subject matter and is provided for informational purposes only. Joe Morten & Son, Inc. does not provide legal advice to its insureds or other  parties, nor does it advise insureds or other parties on employment-related issues, therefore the subject matter is not intended to serve as legal or employment advice for any issue(s) that may arise in the operations of its insureds or other parties. Legal advice should always be sought from legal counsel. Joe Morten & Son, Inc. shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, action, or inaction alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the information contained herein. Reprinted with permission from Great West Casualty Company.