It happens often: we appear to be listening but in fact we are so distracted by other thoughts, other people, and other things we have to do, that we’re not really actively listening. Or we’re thinking about what we’re going to say next and how we can say it so that we sound fabulously articulate and intelligent. We don’t entirely hear what the person in front of us is saying. We’re not getting the whole message. In our careers, it’s critical that we are heard. But it’s just as critical that we hear, that we truly hear. Our ability to really listen to others is as vital to our overall presence.

When we actively listen, we’re in a better position to get the whole story. We hear what is being said, how it’s being said and often more importantly, what isn’t being said. We start to see the whole picture, we grow in understanding and we learn. In the wise words of talk show legend Larry King, ‘I never learnt anything while I was talking.’

The more we listen, the more people tend to share, because ultimately people have a need to be heard. To remain unheard is almost like being invisible. When you give people the respect of listening to what they have to say and you value their right to express themselves, you make them feel more valuable. Don’t ever underestimate the power of giving someone the opportunity to be listened to.

Here are 8 tips to fine-tune your listening skills:

  1. Prepare yourself to listen: Stop what you’re doing, put down that phone, put away auditory and visual distractions, hush your thoughts and most of all, stop talking. Listening is an active process, so it requires your absolute attention.
  2. Show that you’re ready to listen: Make eye contact, focus on the speaker, and if you are sitting across from them, lean forward. Don’t fold your arms. Use your body language to make the speaker feel relaxed enough to speak freely.
  3. Listen closely: Focus on what is being said. Now is not the time to plan a response, formulate an opinion or solve a problem. Now is the time to listen. Simply allow this person to express themselves and allow their views to be heard.
  4. Be respectful: Don’t judge, don’t bring your personal prejudices into play and don’t censor what somebody else is trying to say. Practise curiosity instead. Open your mind and be respectful of the story unfolding in front of you.
  5. Listen deeply: Listen as much to the things that aren’t being said as the things that are being said. Pay attention to the tone of voice, be mindful of the words that are chosen and watch the speaker’s body language.
  6. Be patient: Don’t jump in. Even when the speaker pauses, fumbles for the right words, or stutters, don’t finish their sentences for them and don’t interrupt them.
  7. Understand: When the full story is on the table, make sure you get it with absolute clarity. Ask questions if you have to. Paraphrase it back to them. Get all the details you need, not later, now.
  8. And when you do respond: Think first, self-evaluate and ask yourself, is what I am about to say going to make a valuable contribution?

Here’s to the power of listening,

Warm wishes,



LORI MILNER is the engaging facilitator, thought leader and mentor known for her insightful approach to being a modern corporate woman. Her brainchild, the successful initiative Beyond the Dress, is the embodiment of her passion to empower women.


Credit: Lori Milner, lionessesofafrica.com