Shirley's Articles / Communication Skills and Building Relationships

3 Easy Steps To Improve Your Active Listening

It’s been an amazing year at work and you’ve just been promoted to be the head of your team. You’ve held leadership roles in school before, but this time it’s a big step ahead in your career. As you revel in your success, you start to think, “Can I truly lead this team?”

Every stepping stone is always an opportunity for learning lessons, and one of the fundamental skills I always prioritise is active listening. In many ways, good listening skills are the basic foundation of any leadership role – they give you a better understanding of the people you work with and the team you lead.

There is a distinct difference between hearing what someone has to say, and listening to the message behind it. While hearing is a physical process, listening actually deals with inference skills and deciphering what someone has to say.

Luckily for most of us, Active Listening is a skill that can easily be taught, as long as we make a conscientious effort to improve ourselves. In fact, you can start with these easy steps.

1. Make Eye Contact With The Speaker

Keeping eye contact with the speaker builds a bond and a connection that keeps you truly in tune with the conversation. There are no distractions, no other visual cues, just you and the speaker making soft but direct eye contact, communicating with one another. Moderate your thoughts so you can keep a clear mind and concentrate on what the speaker has to say. As some would say, keep your eye on the prize.

2. Run Through What The Speaker Is Saying In Your Head

Allow what the speaker is saying to sink in and reverberate through your head. This gives you a chance to absorb the message and infer whatever the speaker is saying. If you don’t understand any part, or if something is confusing, ask the speaker to repeat or reiterate his point. Clarifying your understanding of the information will assure the speaker that you’re genuinely listening to them, and this is a great a step in the right direction.

3. At The End, Summarise The Whole Conversation

Run through the key points of the conversation when it’s time to come to a conclusion. By saying it aloud and paraphrasing your understanding, this reaffirms what you understand, you can clarify any doubts with the speaker. Not only does paraphrasing help to deepen your understanding, it also gives the speaker a sense of comfort that you have actively listened and caught on to what they have to say.

No matter what your seniority is in the organisation, you must not underestimate the importance of good listening skills. In many ways, as you progress higher in the management hierarchy, it would serve you well to practice active listening even more.

Listening increases your Emotional Quotient, which in turn increases your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. How you listen conveys your attitude to the other person, and helps to make an exchange successful. By reaping the benefits from listening to the voices from all levels, we can truly build better relationships and create better businesses by being more productive as responsible leaders.

If you want to join one of the many leaders learning effective business communication, check out my online virtual training program – I will work with you step-by-step to help you craft clear, concise messages that build great relationships and achieve better results.

All articles are copyright © Shirley Taylor. All rights reserved. This information may not be distributed, sold, publicly presented, or used in any other manner, except as described here.

Permission to reprint all or part of any article in your magazine, e-zine, website, blog or organisation newsletter is granted, as long as:

  1. The entire credit line below is included*.
  2. The website link to is clickable (live)**.
  3. You send a copy, PDF, or link of the work in which the article is used when published.

This credit line must be reprinted in its entirety to use any articles by Shirley Taylor:

* Credit line:
© Shirley Taylor.
Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

** The website link to must be clickable to receive permission to reprint the article.