Communication: Communication – 5 Behaviors of Listening

“Listens to the ideas and concerns of others” is composed of 5 behaviors:

  • seeks ideas, suggestions, and opinions from others;
  • creates a comfortable climate for airing concerns;
  • listens to ALL points of view with an open mind;
  • listens carefully without interrupting;
  • summarizes input, then checks for understanding

Effective listening occurs when you seek to understand the other person before asking them to understand you.

Effective listening requires a deeper appreciation of how people want you to listen to them. People want to be understood, and they want you to show how well you have understood them. Your first step in listening is to display an attitude of interest and openness to hearing their point of view and their concerns, and to make sure they have an ample opportunity to be heard.

An attitude of openness is best demonstrated when you give your full attention while the person is talking. Giving your full attention requires that you sit down face to face, make eye contact, and attend to the person without looking at e-mails, answering phone calls, or doing paper work while they are talking. If you are preoccupied the person will sense this and they will assume they are less important than what you’re thinking about.

To prepare mentally to listen it is necessary to clear your mind so you can be present and engaged in the conversation. Sometimes this is difficult because of projects that have your attention. You may be in the middle of an urgent situation when someone on your staff asks to talk with you. Tell them you want to talk with them, and ask if they can wait for about 15 minutes or more for you to get to a stopping point. Let them know you’re on an urgent task, and can give them 15 minutes today. The person may say, “I’ll need more time. Can we set up a time tomorrow?”

Techniques of listening include these behaviors:

  • listen actively by reflecting what you understand the person to be saying;
  • reflect your understanding of their feelings as well as their information;
  • ask if this is an accurate understanding of what they said;
  • listen actively by asking for clarification when you don’t understand them;
  • summarize the points when the conversation comes near its end;
  • ask the person if they feel they have been understood

For additional growth in listening skills:

  • Read Habit # 5 in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey
  • Ask staff how you can be a better listener.
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