Manage This … Listening

Effective listening is a crucial leadership skill. It affects how well you manage your employees, influence others and solve problems. Listening is an easy concept to grasp, but a difficult skill to master. Even careful listeners who focus on the conversation often think about what they will say next, as opposed to really focusing on what the other person is saying. One rare exception in my experience was a manager who, before replying, would sit in complete silence. It initially made me uncomfortable until I realized that he was listening so well that he needed time to form his reply.

According to Nick Morgan of the Harvard Management Communication Letter, there are three basic levels of communication: the first level is demonstrating empathy by sharing a similar experience; the second level is clarifying and reflecting what the speaker said; and the third, and most under-utilized level, is to paraphrase the underlying emotional truth of what is being said.

In communication and coaching classes, I conduct an exercise in which participants break into pairs. One person talks while the other simply listens; only speaking to paraphrase or clarify. Participants react strongly, saying that it makes them realize that effective listening is difficult and rare.

In the next few weeks, work with your coach or a trusted colleague to practice your listening skills. Use the above exercise with the three levels of listening. Get feedback from others you work with to see if they notice a change. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.

If you’re ready to start taking the steps to improve your communication skills, contact Halmi Performance Consulting ( or 510-336-0654) for workshops or one-on-one coaching.

Manage This … Communication styles vary greatly amongst people. Learn how you can enhance your communication through understanding styles on the second Monday in August.

Please feel free to call or write with questions or comments. I welcome your feedback.

Please pass this to others who would benefit from it.

If you want specific references for any of the material, please let me know.

Manage This … is a monthly eZine by Kerrie Halmi, Halmi Performance Consulting. Visit

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