Volume 108, March 2011: Communication: Reflective Listening

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2011 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.” — Dr. Joyce Brothers

Listening is a skill more difficult to practice than speaking, especially for the busy leader. It requires giving your full attention to another, which is emotionally and intellectually demanding. Yet the payoffs are worth it. Good listening:

  • Facilitates shared understanding among people.
  • Builds an environment of trust.
  • Enables learning.
  • Builds the self-esteem of those listened to.

Listening is a growth experience for all parties.

In order to listen well:

  1. Be fully attentive and open.
  2. Wait for the complete answer.
  3. Restate or paraphrase key points.
  4. Focus on the “feeling” in the message.
  5. Mirror or summarize occasionally.
  6. Validate what they are saying.
  7. Express respectful appreciation for opposing views.
  8. Listen for meaning. Attend to the 85-93% of the message that is non-verbal.
  9. Adjust your posture and eye contact to extend attention.
  10. Paraphrase what you hear, for clarification.
  11. Ask open (What? How?) questions for more information.
  12. Relate what you hear to the person and the bigger picture.

Embedded in these feature a is a common psychotherapy technique, playback – a technique offered by the psychologist, Carl Rogers, which has been echoed by Stephen Covey. It involves restating what you have heard the other person say, to their satisfaction. Then ask them to correct your understanding.

When in group discussions, particularly heated ones, set a ground rule that no one may offer their idea, until they have accurately played back the previous point or position of the last speaker.

Practice Point

Try the play-back technique. Paraphrase what the speaker says, before you go on to make your point.


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