Being Present with Full Attention


Some would describe listening as an important foundational skill. It’s similar to self-awareness  – it doesn’t hold a place in a sequence but is more of an umbrella skill. Deep listening increases proficiency in all the other skills.

Listening skills are not a prerequisite but once developed, they are the icing on the cake of communication. Learning and improving the other relational skills will help you strengthen your listening muscles.

Receptive Listening is the role of the person who is hearing a story being told by another, but it’s more than just hearing that person. A receptive listener is fully present and not only hears but understands the message being expressed.

With Reflective listening, you also seek to understand what the person is trying to express, but you take it to the next level by checking out your perceptions. You reflect back to the speaker what you think you’re hearing to find out if you have it right. Then you listen again as the speaker confirms that you have understood them correctly, or they explain where you got it wrong.

As the listener, you reflect back as needed to check your perception of what’s being communicated. You might reflect back a second, or third time until your understanding is spot on. The key is that you don’t simply parrot back the exact words. You put the message into your own words, then ask if you’ve got it right. The speaker will let you know and you’ll be certain that you understand what the person is expressing.

man and woman couple listening to each other
man hand gesture and woman across conference table looking serious

Elements of Good Listening

  • Good listening requires focus and commitment.

  • It is a gift. Offer it with generosity.

  • Keep an open mind without judgment.

  • Let the person speak without interruption.

  • Don’t offer a solution. Just stay present.

  • Ask questions only to gain understanding.

  • Tune into what the speaker is feeling.

  • Reflect on what the speaker is not saying.

  • Notice body language. It is 55% of communication.

facilitated group

What Gets in the Way of Listening & Hearing

What keeps us from listening well?

Listening is a skill but perhaps it’s better defined as a discipline or practice. It requires our full attention which can be difficult to maintain because it requires emotional and physical energy.

Things that might be obstacles to listening:

  • The urge to respond – too soon and with our own ideas

  • Lack of interest – in the person or the topic

  • Distracting thoughts – our mind is preoccupied

  • Physical discomfort

  • The speaker’s body language

  • The speaker’s physical appearance

  • Reacting to the first part of the message, then tuning out

women sitting at a conference table

The Benefits of Good Listening Skills

Being a skilled listener can help you in a variety of ways both at home and in your profession. In general, your relationships will improve as your listening skills are polished and practiced.


  • It will improve your relationships

  • You will be perceived as trustworthy

  • It will help you be more open-minded

  • You’ll be better at solving problems

  • It will help you prevent conflicts

  • It will help you resolve conflicts that do arise

  • You will gain a broader perspective

  • You will improve your attention to detail

group sitting close together in deep discussion

Articles That Can Help with Listening Skills


Conflict Resolution for Individuals & Organizations

Got humans? There will be conflict. If there isn’t, someone’s not expressing their needs. Differing opinions can make us nervous, but if we keep an open mind without getting defensive, we have the opportunity to see an issue from a different perspective. Read More…


group talking

Assertiveness Skills: the Unsung Hero of Relationships & Life

Assertiveness is an approach to interaction and self-expression that is direct and clear. Sadly it’s also somewhat rare. In its purest form, assertiveness is a communication style of simplicity that is not only free of negative energy, but that expresses empathy. Read more…


laptop with two fists viewed from above and crumpled paper

Conscious Anger: Understanding the Mystery Emotion

We can learn to understand our emotional triggers and how to manage aggressive behavior. We can increase self-awareness and gain the interpersonal skills essential for resolving difficulties with others and deepening our relational capacity. Read More…


Adults Bullying image collage

Aggression & Blame in Organizations: Bullying by Adults

A more nuanced behavior than most of us think, there are unrecognized forms of bullying being carried out by adults. Many of us think of bullying as something kids do. In recent years, that belief isn’t quite as common. I’ve experienced bullying in settings you might not believe. Read more…


man and woman - "What I did was wrong and I apologize."

Why You Need the Rare Skill of an Authentic Apology

We don’t often hear a full-fledged apology in our families or our workplace. We almost never hear them from public officials. It’s a concern that our society has a growing epidemic of so-called adults who lack the ability to take responsibility for themselves. Read More…


collage of people dealing with personal boundaries

Boundaries for Personal & Business Settings

A topic that often comes up for coaching clients, is boundaries. That’s because coaching, whether personal or professional, is about relationships and relationships are managed effectively or ineffectively in direct proportion to the health of our personal boundaries. Read More…