Active Listening Tips

Active Listening Can be Your Secret Weapon

If you do active listening well, you can establish yourself as someone who “gets it” and who delivers tailored solutions to your clients. It also enables you to take more targeted and effective actions.

To begin, it’s important to have the proper set of expectations about the Active Listening process. Active listening is a skill, and like any skill, it takes time, effort, and practice. And, it’s not always easy or convenient.

The tips for Active Listening include “To-do’s” and “Not To-Do’s”.

Not To-Do’s:

1. You do all the talking

2. You only hear what you want to hear or what you agree with (selective hearing or filtering)

3. You pre-judge or pre-suppose what the other person is going to say

4. You form conclusions too early

5. You interrupt

To Do’s:

1. Consciously listen objectively and fully

2. Keep an open mind

3. Be willing to hear honest feedback (even if it’s about you, your services, or your products)

4. Be neutral as you take the information in (absorb instead of react)

5. Watch for hidden agendas (theirs and yours)

What are some other tips you’ve found extremely helpful in making YOU a more active listener?

About Deborah Siegle

Deb Siegle, Past President of Women in Consulting and Principal of Strategic Marketing Solutions, is an astute marketing leader and strategist with a talent for aligning a company’s products, solutions and messages with the customer’s needs. Deb was named one of the Top Women of Influence in Silicon Valley. She delivers practical and actionable insights to business executives and entrepreneurs. Deb is a recognized consumer and business marketing leader, problem solver and communicator who is an authority in market research, strategy, market and product development, and customer loyalty and experience. Deb is also the former president of Women in Telecommunications (WiT) and has also held leadership positions in other industry associations. Deb holds a M.B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.B.A. from the University of Michigan.


  1. Hi Deborah,

    This is a great, useful list. Thank you.

    I have a couple of tricks and suggestions.

    The most useful trick in my ‘bag,’ for those times when I find my mind drifting, a problem we all have now and then, is to repeat in my head each of the speaker’s words.

    A few others:

    If your mind was drifting, or you simply weren’t sure you understood the gist of the comment(s), it’s OK to ask for clarification with an appropriately placed, polite interruption such as: “Excuse me. Can we back up a bit? Can you please give me an example?”; or “What do you picture as a successful outcome for that?”

    Also useful for showing that you’re paying attention, that you understand, or for getting additional information, is to reiterate or rephrase the idea for the speaker.

    Taking notes while listening can also indicate interest. At times it may be prudent to ask permission first.

    Body language indicates that you’re listening (encouraging open communication) when you:
    – Directly face the speaker–with your whole body
    – Look directly at the speaker (enough to indicate interest, but not so much that they feel uncomfortable),
    – Nod occasionally
    – Lean forward slightly
    – Don’t fiddle with anything

    Very important, and I’m surprised that some people still do this, do not answer the phone or text during that meeting. (Insinuated by your “no interruptions” rule)

    Anyone else have some to tips for Active Listening?

    thank you

  2.' Cheryl Chow says

    Deborah, I wish more people would follow your tips for active listening. It’s incredible how many people violate these rules.

    Kathryn, great additional tips! I’m surprised too, that some people still answer the phone or text while you’re talking to them. If it’s truly an emergency and you MUST answer the phone, it’s best to apologize and explain why you had to pick up the call.

  3. Cheryl and Kathryn, excellent additional points. Thanks for your comments.

    Following up on Kathryn’s comments on body language, body language is a huge influencer in terms of telegraphing to the speaker whether you are giving them your full attention, or whether you are distracted.

    Adding to Kathryn’s suggestions, maintaining solid eye contact is one of the biggest things you can do. And, this is true whether you are having a one-on-one conversation, or whether you are in a group. For example, even if you are in the audience or part of a small group where someone else is speaking, make sure you’re physically positioned so you can maintain eye contact with them. Follow them as they move. Nod encouragingly. They will appreciate you even more, as you are subliminally conveying that you are hearing what they are saying!

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