Prove You Are Really Listening


I was trying out a new restaurant that opened in our town this week. Everyone was raving about it so I was very excited to test it out for myself. After looking at the menu and figuring out which perfect entrée to choose, I ordered and sat back to take in the new surroundings and view the local people. While my eyes scanned the bright new room, I attempted to have a discussion with my husband about what had happened during our day. All of a sudden I saw a smirk come to my husband’s face and I realized I wasn’t answering his questions but rather submerged in the small universe around us. I laughed and said: “I guess I’m not listening to what you are saying. I am so sorry.” How did he know I wasn’t focused on our dialogue?

 Disconnecting from a conversation can happen to all of us in both our professional and personal lives. We may be in a face-to-face communication, on the phone, emailing or texting. We suddenly stop being in the conversation. We aren’t paying attention to the dialogue and cut-off the speaker.


When we are strategically listening, those around us feel it and sense our intentions. So how do you prove you are really listening?

Be focused on the person

Active listening must be deliberate, committing to the person we are connecting with. Our eyes tell all, so make sure they are telling the speaker we are here for them. Unlike me, allowing my eyes to take in all the distractions of the new restaurant crowd, stay tuned to the person you are speaking. While on the phone try to stay with the conversation and not do other things. When emailing or texting, try to respond to what is being asked.


Ask caring and specific questions

We all love to have meaningful conversations but that requires the listener to engage the speaker with open-ended questions that relate to what is being shared.

Why do you feel that way?

What is the best solution for you?

How can you contribute using your unique skills and strengths?

Who else can you reach out to for help?

 Rephrase or summarize what you heard

People know we are showing up and actively listening when we are able to restate what we think we heard. It is very satisfying to feel that we are being clearly understood and validated in a two-way conversation. First summarize the points and then take a few moments to add your comments.

 Show appreciation

Thanking other people for a worthwhile dialogue can deepen any work or personal relationship. We show respect and appreciation by words as well as body language and facial expressions.

  • Smile
  • Use honest language
  • If emailing or texting, state your gratitude for all their help and contributions.
  • Remind the speaker that you are happy to be there for them and value the time spent together.

 How do you lead with active listening? What tips have worked for you in showing someone you are “in the conversation”?

(photo credit)



15 thoughts on “Prove You Are Really Listening

  1. I love that everything you mention here is designed to get us out of our heads and in the moment, back to connection with another person. When I notice that my mind is somewhere else, I try to lead with curiosity. The more curious I get, the more connected I am as a listener. Hope that your meal was terrific!

  2. What a wonderful thought, Alli to try to think in a more curious way when we need to stay in the moment and focus.

    Listening is one of those skills that makes us stronger leaders and helps us to foster deeper relationships. People know when we are not listening. It shows. So we need to be aware.


  3. I guess at different points in a relationship, one person can get caught up in the distractions of the surrounding environment.

    It proves that when we connect with others, we might need to really work on the active listening piece to be part of a productive conversation.

    Thanks Karin!

  4. Great post Terri. Have been making a conscious effort to be a more active listener. We’ve had a number of things going lately with family members having emergency surgery procedures or trying to help out grown children without telling them how to fix an issue. Your pointers are spot on. It certainly makes a difference to the entire interaction when you are fully present in the interaction.

  5. It is so tough with children, Joy, in letting them share an issue without jumping in to fix it. I often have to remind myself to not offer advice, but just listen. I think they can often talk through their best solutions by just having us listen with a closed mouth.

    I appreciate your support!

  6. Great reminder about how important it is to listen. Being in the moment is a constant reminder I need to give myself when I am stressed and trying to do or think about several things at the same time. We are not even aware when we unconsciously step out of our listening mode and are there in front of a person physically.

    I loved the way you have expressed the importance and power of listening.

  7. Distractions are all around us, and the number one distraction is usually in our pocket – mobile devices! To listen fully, all digital devices need to remain put away. Great points, Terri, on how to listen and engage fully. Thanks. Jon

  8. Stress can sometimes cause us to focus on other things instead of actively listening to someone. When we have a lot of things on our minds with little time to make decisions, we do tend to multi-task. That choice of course isn’t always a good one if we really want to understand what we hear.

    Thanks Lalita!

  9. It is so true that our mobile devices can be our chief distractions. When I am presenting a workshop, it is so frustrating to hear the phones go off. Yet, it is equally challenging for some of my participants to turn off their work requests for any period of time.

    I think as leaders we need to be aware of being present and focused in order to build relationships and validate messages shared.

    Thanks Jon!

  10. What an important topic, Terri!

    One of my most effective tools to make sure I have “heard” the salient points in a conversation is to summarize and/or restate what we think we have heard.

    Great article!

  11. Summarizing is an important tool for leaders to use when showing others that they understand what they said. It provides closure for both the listener and the speaker and allows both to walk away from a conversation with similar concepts.

    Strategic listening empowers our teams to trust us and feel that they are being validated.

    Thanks LaRae!

  12. Love this post.

    In most conversations, most people are thinking, how do I respond.

    When in actuality when someone is sharing there is no need to respond. Just to acknowledge. No need to rephrase. Just listen. No need to add. Just appreciate.

    So thank you so much for this fantastic article.

    Lets spread the message of your wise wisdom.

  13. I agree that people are often so fixated on what they want to say back to the speaker, that the message doesn’t always get heard or understood.

    We do need to lead by just listening attentively and validating what is being shared. “Just appreciate”. Love it!

    Thanks Lolly! See you at the #leadfromwithin tweet chat tonight!

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