Active Listening

Active Listening – use it to improve your relationships

So, what happens when you are listened to?

Can you remember the last time you’ve felt that the person in front of you is fully anchored in your story?

I remember a conversation in a coffee shop with a stranger that went a bit like this:

‘So, what do you do?’

And I just started talking about my job in general terms.

‘Ok, what do you want to do?’ –  being said with a spark of interest in the eyes.

Suddenly, I noticed their leaning forward, the sitting in silence and warm smile. This created a trusting environment that made me engage and
open-up in our conversation. The result of all this was a fruitful professional collaboration and now a friendship filled with inspiring coffee time

The beauty of this experience appeared when I understood how two strangers gained professionally and personally because of a simple act of authentic listening actively [i].

Now imagine what could happen if we really listened at the family dinner?

What about to our friends’ friend, a work colleague or even better, to the person sitting next to us at a business event?

Psychologist Carl Rogers said listening actively involves giving free and undivided attention to the speaker. In coaching, it is one of the core competencies of a coach and an essential element to creating a relationship with clients based on trust and intimacy [ii].

To name a few instances where researchers found it to have a positive influence.

Shaffer and his colleagues (2019) [iii] found a link to better parenting in this age where children are more inclined towards a digital world and where spoken words are becoming a rarer mean of communication.

Thought-provokingly, another study [iv] of telephone-based crisis intervention case studies found that listening actively to verbal nuances such as tonal changes or choice of words were elements that resulted in successful interventions.

Not to mention how professionally speaking it is found to be likely to make a better consultant to clients [v], a more successful therapist [vi] and a better leader [vii] .

We also believe there are four dimensions of listening:

  • Inner listening – Listening through the lens of our own experience with fact checking and interrupting the person to share personal experiences or desires.
  • Focused listening – Attention shifts to the other’s person’s experience; however only words are being listened to.
  • Global listening – At this level verbal nuances, body language and interpretation of meaning beyond words is taking place.
  • Greater listening – In this level the listener understands the other’s person vision and interests.

Which level of listening are you using? and where would you like to be?

A challenge from CoachCompanion

Next time you visit a coffee place, or simply talk to a stranger bring higher levels of listening into the conversation. You never know what it could bring.

Rogers, C. R., & Farson, R. E. (1957). “Active listening”. Industrial Relations Center of the University of Chicago.

[ii] De Haan, E., & Gannon, J. (2017). The coaching relationship. The SAGE handbook of coaching, 195-217.

Shaffer, A., Fitzgerald, M. M., Shipman, K., & Torres, M. (2019). Let’s Connect: A developmentally-driven emotion-focused parenting intervention. Journal
of Applied Developmental Psychology
63, 33-41.

Lester, D. E. (2002). Crisis intervention and counselling by telephone. Charles C Thomas Publisher.

Koehl, M., Poujol, J. F., & Tanner Jr, J. F. (2016). The impact of sales contests on customer listening: an empirical study in a telesales context. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management36(3), 281-293.

Bodie, G. D., Vickery, A. J., Cannava, K., & Jones, S. M. (2015). The role of “active listening” in informal helping conversations: Impact on perceptions
of listener helpfulness, sensitivity, and supportiveness and discloser emotional improvement. Western Journal of Communication79(2), 151-17

Hoppe, M. H. (2007). Lending an ear: Why leaders must learn to listen actively. Leadership in Action: A Publication of the Center for Creative Leadership and Jossey‐Bass27(4), 11-14.

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