Active Listening

Listening is NOT waiting for your turn to speak!

The great Stephen Covey, author of the equally great book ‘7 habits of highly effective people’ taught us that we should…

Seek first to understand and THEN to be understood.

So we should all spend some time this week, giving our customers and colleagues a good listening to, however we’re engaging with them right now, so that we understand their needs and wants and requirements, BEFORE getting others to understand us.

It’s a tall order I get that – we’re all out trying to get understood I know BUT you know what they say…

The more interested you appear to another person, the more interesting YOU become – and you’re sure to appear interesting if you’re properly listening to what someone is saying to you right now – especially as we’re all feeling a little distant and lonely from our fellow men and women at this time!

Remember those 10 commandments of ACTIVE LISTENING?

Well, here’s your reminder…


We cannot listen if we are talking!


Always be prepared to listen before the need arises – put on the listening blinkers and stay focused.


Prove you are listening and interested by using encouraging mouth noises and giving empathy, where appropriate. Sometimes words aren’t even necessary – just a tilt of the head, a gentle nod or a smile is sufficient, even if / when listening on the telephone.


Keep an open mind. Everyone is different and everyone’s reaction to any situation is different, even if the situation is the same. Never assume! You know what they say…it makes an ASS out of U and ME

The 5th commandment – ASK QUESTIONS

Questions demand answers and therefore develop our understanding of the message, and you know what they say, the more questions you ask the more interesting YOU become – because people love nothing more than talking about themselves and their situations!

However, ensure your questioning is conversational, not interrogational, by keeping your questions open and / or pre-framed with the TED Principle – introduce the question with a TELL me or TALK me through / EXPLAIN or DESCRIBE, which will create a more conversational tone to the questioning stage.


This is even more important if we can’t see the person we are communicating with. Reflect back key words to confirm you’ve listened, understood and to highlight important information and so maintain control of the situation.

Commandment no. 7 – BE PATIENT

Allow the speaker his or her say! Listen to understand rather than to reply. Do not interrupt! Remember – Listening is not waiting for your turn to speak! Never interrupt – if you need to sshhh! a customer then wait for their half a breath, use their name and go to a commandment – they’ll stop immediately they hear their name – it’s a great attention grabber as we know!

No. 8 in our 10 commandments is to TAKE NOTES

Get the key points down on paper or on screen, however be careful not to get too much down on paper or typed into the screen, otherwise we end up in pencil-listening mode and then, vital information may be missed, so just get the salient points down.

Commandment no. 9 is to LOOK & LISTEN ‘BETWEEN THE LINES’

Look and listen for the feelings, ideas and meaning behind the words spoken. What is not said or the way something is said is often just as important as what is actually said. This is even more imprtant to do when we communicate via the ‘phone and we can’t see the person, so really tune in to what the other person is both saying and not saying as well as the way they’re saying it today – OK!

And finally commandment no. 10 is the same as commandment no 1 – STOP TALKING!

It’s the first and last commandment because all other commandments depend on it. Remember – 2 ears and 1 mouth – to be used in that order and by that ratio.

The great philosopher John Dewey taught us that the greatest compliment you could pay another human being was to give that person your UNDIVIDED ATTENTION, ENERGY, FOCUS & TIME – and that’s exactly what you do when you ACTIVELY LISTEN to someone.

Hello... I'm Marie Cross

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