Five Tips for Becoming a Great Listener

Listening is an important key to your life and career success. This article lays out five simple tips for becoming a great leader.  It is written to leaders, but even if you’re not currently in a leadership position you should pay attention.  If you put these five tips to work you’ll be on the path to a promotion and a leadership position.

Paying attention to non verbal cues, asking questions, reflecting feelings, paraphrasing, summarizing — five great ideas for becoming the best listener you can be.  You should incorporate all of these tips into your listening repertoire.

I find that the third tip — reflecting feelings — is one of the most underused listening skill.  Many people don’t like to get into touchy feely stuff like feelings.  But in my experience, taking a chance and getting into the feelings behind the words pays big dividends.  I find that people open up even more when I am willing to discuss their feelings.

A couple of weeks ago, I was dealing with a coaching client who was pretty upset with her boss.  I said something like, “It seems as if you are pretty angry about this.”  I was doing my best to identify the feeling behind her words.  She said, “I’m not so much angry as I am frustrated.”

Once we had her feeling — frustration — on the table we began to focus on what she could do to lessen her frustration with her boss.  We came up with several ideas that she put to work.  She reported that she was able to have a conversation with her boss in which she laid out her frustrations and resolve them.  This probably wouldn’t have happened had I not labeled the feeling I was hearing.

You’ll notice that I got it wrong.  I thought she was feeling angry.  She was feeling frustrated.  It was OK that I got the feeling wrong.  By making an informed guess on her feeling — anger and frustration are not all that far apart — I got her to open up.  This led us to a place where we could work on how to resolve her feelings of frustration.

In my experience, people respond positively when I label the feeling I am hearing — they don’t care if I’m not exactly right.  Just by saying “It seems as if you are feeling…” opens up the conversation.  It also demonstrates empathy.  While you can’t be wildly wrong about the feeling — saying someone sounds happy when they are actually very sad, for example — doing your best to identify and label the feeling you think you are hearing will brand you as a good listener.  And good listening skills are critical to your success.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve.  Now I’m going one step further.  I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success.  And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free.  Just go to  to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals.  I hope to see you there.

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