Listening Skills for the Brave and Passionate: Taking it to the Next Level

The last few blog posts have been all about listening; what gets in the way, why listening is important and how listening well can enhance our relationships. So, if you have read and practiced the skills presented so far, now is your chance to take it to the next level by learning the components of effective listening.

There are four basic steps. They are, encouraging, restating, reflecting and summarizing. Though these are presented as steps and it is good to learn and practice them this way, in reality, the steps get all mixed together like a delicious fruit salad when you are really in the listening groove.


Purpose: To convey interest

How to do it:
• Maintain gentle eye contact
• Lean forward
• Smile, nod, line up your body so you are facing the person speaking
• Use a positive tone of voice

What to say:
• I’d like to hear about it…
• Would you like to talk about it?
• I’d be interested in your point of view…
• Sounds like you have something to say about this…
• How do you feel about that?
• Tell me the whole story…
• I see…
• Uh-huh…
• That’s interesting…
• Then what happened…


Purpose: To show that you are listening and understanding. To let the speaker know you grasp the facts and to build rapport.

How to do it:
• Restate the speakers basic ideas, in your own words, emphasizing facts.

What to say:
• If I understand, your idea is…
• In other words, your decision is…
• So when you came back to college you had a hard time finding child care, but this year it hasn’t been an issue for you. Is that right?


Purpose: To show you are listening and understanding how the speaker feels about the subject being discussed. Often you will need to take cues from voice tone, body language and facial expressions to uncover the emotions.

How to do it: Reflect the speaker’s basic feelings, using your own words. Identify emotions such as sad, angry, irritated, frustrated, happy, excited, relieved, etc. Be sure to confirm that you have gotten it right. Don’t assume you know how someone feels. Guess at their feelings, and then ask for confirmation.

What to say:
• You feel sad?
• So, you were pretty disturbed by what happened.
• Apparently, this has made you very happy. Is that right?


Purpose: To pull together important ideas, facts and feelings and establish a starting point for further discussion and to follow up with additional questions and clarification.

How to do it: restate, reflect and summarize the major ideas and feelings the speaker has expressed. Clarify facts and feelings.

What to say:
• These seem to be the key ideas you have discussed…
• If I understand you, you feel frustrated about the situation.
• Let me get this right, these are the events that occurred…. and you felt…. when these things took place. Is that correct?

So there you have it.  The four basics of good listening for the brave and passionate.  Remember, in a real conversation it is rarely this linear.  Instead you may start with encouraging, skip to reflecting feelings, go back to asking about the facts and restating them, reflect feelings again, summarize, encourage again, reflect and restate, reflect again, summarize, etc.

It is helpful to find someone to practice with.  Ask a friend or loved one if they are willing to have you listen to them tell a story about their day or a childhood memory.  This is a great way to hone your skills and give the gift of  being truly heard to someone you care about.  Happy listening!

Listening Practice

To learn and practice listening and communication skills in a class or one-on-one, contact Joann Lescher at Speaking from the Heart in Ashland, or for national and international trainings on non-violent communication visit The Center for Non-Violent Communication.

Books on Active Listening:

How to Listen So Kids Will Talk and Talk So Kids Will Listen By: Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

The Art of Active Listening:  How to Double Your Communication Skills in 30 Days By:Josh Gibson

Non-Violent Communication: The Language of Life By Marshall Rosenberg



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