Developing Active Listening Skills

In their book For Your Improvement, Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger define listening as: “knowing what others have said and meant to say, and leaving people comfortable that they have had their say.”

This does not necessarily mean you agree with what was said but rather that you used the following active listening skills:

  1. You didn’t interrupt
  2. You are able to paraphrase
  3. You listened for underlying meaning
  4. You are accepting of differing views

Yet, how often have you had a discussion, conference or phone call when you felt you weren’t really heard? Or have you ever ended a conversation and then felt unclear as to the message or weren’t really sure what you committed to? Maybe you were going over your shopping list instead of truly listening?

Here are some active listening tips to help you stay focused and engaged:

  • Keep your mouth closed (if your mouth is open, your ears are closed)
  • Keep eye contact (this helps with attention levels)
  • Take notes (this will help with paraphrasing)
  • Don’t frown and fidget
  • Let the person know if you have accepted or rejected what they said and why

Additional tips from Lombardo and Eichinger:

  • Don’t suggest words or finish sentences when a pause occurs
  • Listen, don’t solve, or judge
  • Ask questions to clarify understanding
  • If time is an issue, let the person know and schedule additional time
  • Let the person know if you need more facts or discussion before making a decision
  • Be aware of your non-listening behaviors (pencil tapping, raised eyebrows, blank stares, “zoning out”)

Eric Shannon


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  • True listening is something that many people struggle with, including myself. This article lays down some pretty important, yet simple ground work for being an effective listener. Active listening is both beneficial to the one listening and the one speaking. Sometimes people just want to be heard. Follow Lombardo and Eichinger’s tips and realize that trying to solve or judge a situation is much more complicated than listening. Removing judgement and being opened minded allows the listener to really think about a situation and stand in another person’s shoes.

    I disagree with what the article says about informing the speaker if you accept or reject what their saying. You should always accept what other people say whether or not you understand or agree with it. You should accept what other people say as a personal view, and understand that you don’t have to agree with someone allow them to feel or believe in something that opposes what you believe.

  • Very helpful start for people to understand what it truly means to listen. You should have included some body posture and eye contact tips as well that help convey you as an attentive listener. Its very rare now a days i believe that people actually take out the time to actively listen to you. 

  • Listening is hard for me to do on a regular basis because it’s as if my mind doesn’t want to be interrupted by what the other person has to say. It’s enlightening when I actually hear a person, and get inspired to ask questions, having a real conversation, not two people talk at each other. Eye contact may be the biggest adjustment to listening, in my own experience.