top of page



“We don’t listen to hear, we listen to respond.” This is a contraction of a quote from Stephen R. Covey ’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

How often are we listening to understand instead of listening to change? Research shows that most conversations we have are one way; meaning that we are only listening to gain information for ourselves to then reply. What that means is that instead of really paying attention to what the other person is saying, you are already thinking about what you want to say in response. When people don’t feel heard or understood, they tend to get louder to try to communicate how they feel or what they need. This is important to remember especially if you want to be a better communicator in your work environment or even in your personal life (think how many times have you said to your partner, family, friends, “why aren’t you listening to me”?). Listening to reply is the standard way that most people communicate therefore we can all benefit by developing our active listening skills.

What Active Listening Looks Like? Not interrupting/Summarization/Repeating/Picking up on body language

Pay attention: When someone is talking to you, look at them. Notice their eye contact and body language. Take in their tone of voice as well as what they are actually saying. Really listen.

Listen with your body: Turn toward the person who is talking, lean in, and make them feel listened to because you really are listening. Make eye contact, smile, nod, and make leading noises (“Uh-huh”, “Really?”, “Go on”, etc.) when appropriate.

Don’t interrupt: The best way to make someone feel like they are not being heard is to interrupt or talk on top of them. Listen fully and wait until they are done to ask questions or add your thoughts.

Repeat what they said: Don’t just say what you were planning to say. Show that you have heard what they said by repeating back to them a summary of what you heard when appropriate before adding your own opinions.

Respond to what they said. Be honest and respectful in your responses, and remember to talk — and listen — in the ways that you would want to be talked or listened to.

What Can you Do to Ensure You Are Actively Listening?

Eliminate Distractions:

● Put down your phone, close your laptop whenever someone is talking to you.

● Turn to them, look them in the eyes, and really listen to what they are saying.

● Don’t assume you know what they want to talk to you about so you don’t really have to pay attention.

Respond by repeating before commenting.

● This makes people feel heard and understood,

● This is crucial and a good tip especially if you don’t understand the topic or if someone is asking something of you

○ For example, if your boss requests something of you and you don’t fully understand what he/she wants.

● This is a good tip to use with anyone in any situation (great for conflict discussions too)

Try not to judge.

● The hardest part of all in active listening is not being judgmental or jumping to conclusions.

● When you’re really listening, you need to try to withhold personal thoughts and feelings unless they are requested.

● Unless they specifically ask for advice, don’t give it.

○ Some people really just want to be heard; they don’t want you to try to fix things.

● Most of all don’t assume you know more about a situation than the person speaking. “Mansplaining” – or talking down to someone – is never a good idea.

What are the benefits of Active Listening?

Increase Morale and Productivity:

When you actively listen, you are able to provide meaningful feedback.

Effective feedback has been shown to be crucial to overall morale, effective communication and productivity.

Creates Effective Relationships

● People around you will feel more supported and understood

● This builds trusting and effective relationships


● To be able to properly problem-solve and achieve outcomes that all parties feel satisfied with, you need to actively listen to the problems that are being faced.

○ That way, you can address all needs to find the optimal solution

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”

― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Article Written by Denise Young, WIL National Diversity and Inclusion Advisor and CEO and Consultant of Tiger’s Eye Advisory Group, a people-focused business solutions company that values collaboration and empowerment. She creates collaborative work spaces where “everyone is at the table”. She has a Bachelor of Management and a Masters of Arts in Communication and Technology from University of Alberta.

Reach out to Denise ( if you or your organization is interested in Diversity and Inclusion Programs, Leadership Workshops or Communication Strategic Planning

Connect with Denise:

LinkedIN: Denise Young




1 Comment

Inspired by Wordle, Phrazle challenges you to decipher a multi-word sentence. As you make your guesses, you'll get color-coded hints that will lead you to the words and phrases in question. In just six attempts, can you guess the phrase?

bottom of page