Listen Up! Expectations vs. Reality


When we turn attention to listening in our conversations with participants, their managers and key stakeholders, as Learning Professionals we might think we are already good listeners.

BUT… do you hear what your participants, managers and key stakeholders are REALLY saying?  Discover the art of Active Listening in all aspects of Learning and Development

“…The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps, the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.” RACHEL NAOMI REMEN

This quote pretty much sums it up. Applicable to any business conversation… Listen, Listen and Listen some more!

Listening is one of the most important skills anyone can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your effectiveness and on the quality of your working relationship with others.

Don’t talk. Don’t tell your own story. Don’t give advice. Don’t offer solutions. Do not direct. And, certainly, do not criticize or pass judgment.

Clear your mind of everything that is bothering you and on your to do list, and listen with everything you have in you – all of the focus and energy you can muster.

Listen for the ideas you hear, and also listen for the complete message, including the feelings.  You need to look for the things that are said and the things that are not said.

While paying more careful attention to the words used, also hear tone of voice and observe important body language and gestures to gain a ‘true picture’ of the message being conveyed.

And remember, in the global ‘online’ environment that we find ourselves in, while there may be less possibility to directly read facial expressions, gestures and mood, you can still ‘hear’ the unsaid.

Active Listening is the single most useful and important listening skill.

In active listening we are genuinely interested in understanding what the other person is thinking, feeling, wanting or what the message means, and we are active in checking our understanding before we respond with our own new message. We restate or paraphrase our understanding of their message and reflect it back to the sender for verification. This verification or feedback process is what distinguishes active listening and makes it effective.

9 Top Tips for Active Listening

As the science confirms, there are many ways to become distracted and fall into poor listening habits.  Here are nine top tips for tuning in to active listening and ensure that as Learning Professionals we are fully focused on our participants, managers and key stakeholders at all times.

  1. Focus on the Participant. The first foundation principle of ID9 Intelligent Design.  Proactively tune in to your participants and their managers.  Observe, look and REALLY listen to them in every conversation, meeting or interaction.  Keep your participants’ learning needs and motivators at the forefront of all your L&D activities.  Actively listen with a razor-sharp focus to ensure you place your participants firmly at the center of every learning experience, every time.
  2. Make time to listen. Avoid looking at your watch or at other people or events going on around you. Use eye contact and listening body language. Face and lean toward the speaker and nod your head as appropriate.
  3. Listen for what is not said. Don’t respond just to the meaning of the words; look for the feelings or intent beyond the words. Often the surface meaning of the words used by the sender is not the real message.
  4. Keep your mind in the here and now. Inhibit your tendency to mentally ‘wander off’.
  5. Set the scene for active listening. Curb your impulse to immediately jump in and answer questions or give advice.
  6. Paraphrase for understanding. If you are confused and do not understand alert the speaker and ask them to re-phrase or clarify.
  7. Know your listening style and tune into the listening styles of others. Adapt your communication to suit. Be empathetic and non-judgmental. You can be accepting and respectful of the speaker and their feelings without invalidating or giving up your own position.
  8. Don’t interrupt. Be more aware of your talking habits.  If you find that you have a tendency to ‘jump in’ or fight for ‘air space’ consciously find ways to change your approach.
  9. Make use of silence. Silence is an invaluable tool for Learning Professionals.  Resist the urge to plug silence.  A period of silence or a well-timed pause in conversations or learning programs provides crucial thinking and reflection time.  It provides an accepting space, where the other party is in control of the content, timing, and path of their thinking.  It provides us as Learning Professionals with an opportunity to sharpen our focus.  The ability to pause is a true art.


L I S T E N         =         _ _ _ _ _ _

Rearrange these letters to make a second word that is vital for active listening!

There is a lot to consider when mastering the true art of active listening. Listen and Be Listened To, by Catherine Mattiske includes practical tips, tricks and tactics to quickly develop active and effective listening capabilities, starting today!  This bite-sized, instant learning is available in Book, digital Learning and Live Session formats.  All with downloadable workbook and free tools!

L&D Professionals use the ID9 Intelligent Design System in parallel with active listening during meetings and learning programs to really tune into their participants and ensure their needs and motivations are the center of every learning experience, every time.