Becoming an active listener


One of the most important soft skills you can learn is active listening. It is a fundamental part of many careers and here at Antal, we believe it is essential. Whether working with clients or colleagues, careful listening can make a huge difference in the quality of a relationship.

The other day I was listening to podcast of TED Radio Hour on the subject of listening and the host, Guy Roz, said something that made active listening even more valuable than I had previously considered. He said,

“We don’t think about listening as this profound act of respect, like, really giving somebody dignity or a gift, especially people who are not listened to or not (usually) heard from”

A profound act of respect:

As a business skills trainer I often teach the importance of active listening and the steps behind it, but I found it really quite moving to think of it from this way. So today while we look at the 5 Key steps to active listening, let’s not forget that really listening to others is a gift of dignity, and that can change lives.

Becoming an Active Listener

There are five key active listening techniques. They all help you ensure that you hear the other person, and that the other person knows you are hearing what they say.


1. Pay Attention

Really paying attention means getting rid of distractions, and focusing on the other person. Whether on the phone or face to face, give the other the gift of your whole attention.

2. Show you’re listening

Using both verbal and non-verbal cues, show the other you are listening. Nodding your head, the occasional verbal responses that say you are there and listening carefully.

3. Provide Feedback

Sometimes our own thinking gets in the way so you may need to reflect what is being said and ask questions.

Try paraphrasing:

  • “What I’m hearing is…”
  • “It sounds like you are saying…”

Clarify certain points by asking questions:

  • “What do you mean when you say…”
  • “…, Is this what you mean?”

Periodically summarize the speaker’s comments.

4. Defer Judgment
  • Don’t interrupt. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
  • Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.
  • Don’t interrupt with your arguments.
5. Respond Appropriately

Remember, active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective but add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him/her down.

  • Be honest and direct in your response.
  • Express your opinions respectfully.
  • Treat the other person in a way that you think he or she would want to be treated

The benefits of active listening are worth the investment. This skill takes practice and constantly checking oneself on the five keys.
Practice today on a friend and give them this profound act of respect.

Looking to join an exciting career filled with challenges and fun? Our Antal offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou are waiting to hear from you.

Stephen Rice
Training Director – Antal Training Solutions
Antal Beijing
Tel: +86 10 6410 8866 ext. 266
Fax: +86 10 8440 0356