Do You Listen With Respect?


I once had a boss who you called me into his office to review our joint projects and share updates about our deadlines. I would sit down across from him in one of two chairs and look forward to our meeting. The exchange of ideas would begin evenly with each of us presenting, yet something always seemed to get in the way of us having a focused discussion. He would inevitably answer a phone call or respond to an email, just to get it out of the way. His chair would face in different directions as he continued to talk or do something simultaneous to our dialogue. Sure he was a busy person, but so was I. I began to dread these meetings because I never felt listened to or respected for my time or contributions. Has this ever happened to you? Do you set up meetings or phone calls and continue to participate in other tasks at the same time? Do you lead by listening with respect?


In a NY Times interview this week, Adam Bryant spoke with Avinoam Nowogrodski, CEO of Clarizen about his early leadership lessons. A vice president in one of his earlier jobs told Nowogrodski: “Listen, Avinoam, you’re very smart, very capable but you have one issue: You are not listening.” After that honest feedback, Nowogrodski learned to listen and tried to understand what other people are trying to say.


How can we show others that we are listening with respect?

Be committed to active listening

We need to purposely connect in a conversation. Everyone is strapped for time but that doesn’t mean we can’t strategically listen. If you are in a face-to-face conversation, use more than your ears to listen. If you are on the phone, listen for tone and emotion. Ask yourself: What is the person really talking about and trying to say? Do I understand clearly or do I need to ask some questions to get a better feel for what is being shared?

Avoid jumping to conclusions

This is a tough one because we often think we know what someone is about to say and may even want to complete their sentence midstream. What I consciously do is remind myself to just listen and not interrupt and then I won’t make a fool of myself by assuming I already know what they want to say.


Honor the speaker

When leaders listen with respect and focus completely on the speaker they are empowering the other person to feel comfortable with sharing their ideas and perspective. If another is in a dialogue with us, presenting what is important to them, we owe them our full attention. Even if you disagree, be respectful by listening to their full presentation and then ignite a positive and open dialogue.

How do you listen with respect? How do you lead and empower others to share their points of view?

(photo credit)

12 thoughts on “Do You Listen With Respect?

  1. “Active listening” keeps you stuck in your head.

    “The HeART of listening” is a listening ‘ART”– when we focus on the heart of the speaker, we are connecting deeply with each other.

    This shows respect.

    Lolly Daskal

  2. What an authentic way of looking at listening, Lolly. I love the way you integrate the “heart of the speaker” into effective leadership listening!

    Understanding the vantage point that the listener comes from and keying into their particular needs promotes deeper communication and relationships. When I speak with people who really try to hear my heart, I am more able to share and be open.

    Thanks Lolly for all your support and additions!

  3. Such an important topic, Terri! Thanks for a great article that reminds us of this important fact.

    I’ve gotten to the point anymore where I say, “This is what I heard you say. Is this correct?”

    It helps me to focus and generally, others appreciate that I would take the time to reiterate our conversation.

    Great article.

  4. What a helpful question, LaRae to clarify what you heard. It is so true that people take conversations differently so it is essential to summarize at the end to make sure both the speaker and the listener are on the same page.

    Another great reason for clarifying is that misunderstandings are avoided and the two people develop deeper rapport with similar vision.

  5. Terri, With more mobile devices, another way to listen with respect is to enter the meeting room device-free. Full attention delivers the atmosphere for respectful listening.

    Also, as you point out, giving a person the room to state their idea, case, or point of view is essential. People need to be given the time to state their views and be heard and then respectfully engaged in a meaningful exchange.

    Great points here! Thanks. Jon

  6. Terri – I’ve read a lot of articles on active listening but what makes this one so powerful is your last point: Honor the speaker. When we think that all of the things we need to do are somehow more important than the human being sitting in front of us, we’ve missed the mark. Fully showing up, one human being committed to engaging with another is the heart of listening, connection and relationships.

    You do this so well. Not sure if it comes naturally to you or of you learned over time but listening is one of your many gifts.

  7. It is so true, Jon, that turning off mobile devices is another way to show we are listening with respect. I have found it very distracting and disrespectful when people leave their phones out during presentations and workshops. It is so prevalent in the workplace today to use our mobile devices as crutches.

    When coaching I find validating the coachee’s perspective actually propels them to be more open and honest.

    Thanks for your great additions, Jon!


  8. I am so humbled Alli that you would feel that way about me! I feel the same about you and I would add your natural gift is taking what you hear and giving it value to another person.

    It is not always to easy to keep our mouths closed and just hear with deep understanding what someone is saying. I have tried very hard not to jump to conclusions, because even if I am not totally wrong about what is said, I really need to process its true meaning.

    When we honor the speaker we are telling them we value them and their contributions.


  9. Terri – I love the story about Avinoam Nowogrodski! …And I was reminded once again that while I’ve worked hard to improve my active listening skills – there is still more to do!!! (I still give into the temptation to finsih other people’s sentences!) Thank you for the reminder!

  10. Chery, I too loved Avinoam Nowogrodski’s story as he was so open to honest feedback and willing to grow as a leader.

    You are a great listener, Chery and I can attest to that! Each of us can grow even more in that area as we try to put ourselves into the speaker’s perspective. Everyone is entitled to be heard completely without assumptions.


  11. I really appreciate your article. I find that when I am uncomfortable or feeling insecure with the person I am communicating with, I can tend to interrupt, etc…

    It’s good to be reminded on how to be a better listener.

    Thanks so much!

  12. You bring up a very interesting point, Teri about why we sometimes interrupt people. It is true that when we feel uncomfortable or we are not familiar with the other person, we tend to want to prove ourselves or our points. The thing is, by interrupting we don’t always know what the person is going to say and we might be commenting on a different issue.

    Listening for the true agenda and points helps us respond in a more meaningful and helpful way.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your great additions!

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