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  • Writer's pictureChuck Cusumano

The Art of Listening: What You Need to Know

By Hanna Marcus

The definition of the word “listening” will likely vary depending on who you talk to about it.

Some people think listening means being quiet while someone is speaking. Other people might believe that listening means patiently waiting for their turn to talk.

But listening, or “receiving language through the ears,” as defines it, is much more than that. Listening – and listening well, especially – is a crucial language and communication skill. More than that, it is one of the fundamental building blocks of communicating efficiently and positively in a workspace.

But what does listening have to do with running a better business and being a better leader, anyway? Can being a better listener really make you a better boss? Will your employees work smarter and harder if you level up your leadership listening skills?

This blog will provide those answers (and then some).

Why Leveling Up Your Listening Skills Matters in the Business World

Learning to listen – really listen – can serve you in every part of your life, including in the working world. But why does listening matter for your career? What does listening have to do with leadership? And how can being a good listener translate to being a better boss? Here is what honing your listening skills can do for you professionally:

  • It Makes You a Better Leader: According to Forbes, listening is “the single most crucial skill in communicating and building your business.” If you are planning on running a company, managing people, and building a business from the ground up, communication is going to be key – and listening is the foundation of communication. Listening to your employees, your business partners, and your clients matters when it comes to leading effectively.

  • It Builds Trust & Fosters Loyalty: If an employee knows that you will listen when they talk – instead of just glazing over when they come to you with problems or solutions – they are more likely to trust you. And when an employee trusts you, they are more inclined to be loyal, productive employees.

  • Boosts Confidence in You: If an employee or a client knows that when they come to you, and there is no doubt you will listen, they will be confident in their relationship with you. Good listeners foster confidence in others, too; it makes them feel confident in what they are saying and how they are saying it.

  • Minimizes Errors: Think about it: if you spent as much time listening to your clients, employees, and colleagues as you did preparing to give them an answer that makes you sound smart, you would probably make fewer errors and accomplish more tasks.

Top Tips to Improve Your Listening Skills:

  • Start with Eye Contact: One of the easiest ways to improve your listening skills is to refocus your attention with eye contact. When you make eye contact with whoever is speaking, you are essentially saying, “Hey, you have my full attention, and I am hanging on your every word.” Obviously, you do not need to make endless eye contact; that can end up feeling intimidating. But if you position your focus on the speaker in an appropriate way, not only will they feel like you are listening, but you will also be inclined to pay attention and listen better.

  • Do Not Just Wait for Your Turn to Speak: Many people use “listening” as an opportunity to let their minds race to come up with a clever or important thing to say in response. But listening is about listening; it is not about coming up with what to say next.

  • Show the Speaker You Are Listening: Believe it or not, body language is a big part of active listening. Eye contact is your first step; open and attentive body language is the next. Check-in with your own body language, your posture, tone of voice, and your facial expressions. Ask yourself: What are these things saying to the speaker about how engaged I am? Do you have your arms crossed? Are you constantly looking over their shoulder to see who comes into the room? Are you checking your watch or your phone? Are you rolling your eyes or sighing loudly? If focused on other things, someone will know it.

  • Do Not Offer Solutions Or Opinions; Just Listen: One of the greatest things about listening is that it is genuinely for listening. Listening is not some code word for the time when you come up with the perfect solution or an expert way to share your opinion. Here is a secret about communication: You do not always need to know what to say right away. Do not feel like listening to someone means knowing the perfect response right off the bat; it is about genuinely hearing someone and ensuring that person actually feels heard.

  • Paraphrase & Summarize: Are you having a hard time listening to someone when they are speaking? You are not alone. With everything you need to do in a day, it can be hard to remind yourself to check in and give someone your full attention. One of the most effective ways to ensure we are paying attention to someone is to paraphrase and summarize what they have told us. Try reflecting (or repeating back what someone said to you) to keep your brain engaged in what is being said, as well as show the speaker you are paying attention to what they are saying.

  • Never Interrupt: One of the greatest ways to show someone you are actually listening is by, well, actually listening. And this means never interrupting them when they are talking. Interrupting is frustrating for the person speaking, but more than that, it gives off the impression that you think what you are saying is more important. That sort of thing does not make someone feel heard or valued.

  • Ask Questions & Engage When Appropriate: No, you should not interrupt someone when they are speaking, but if you have questions or things to say in response, you should bring those up at the appropriate time. Show the speaker you were listening to them by engaging with exactly what they were talking about. Ask them direct questions about what they were discussing, be upfront when you do not understand something, and open the door for conversation about what they say when it is your turn to talk.

Ready to Level Up Your Leadership? We Are Here to Listen

Whether you are seeking ongoing consulting services to help you take your business to new heights or you are simply looking for guidance on better listening skills, the Joshua Group Consulting can help.

Email us at for insight and guidance on how to improve your listening techniques in your office space and beyond.

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