Active Listening (Part 1): Learning To HEAR

A Critical Doer works as hard to develop strength of character as strength of talent

 “God made you with two ears and one tongue.  That means he intended for you to listen twice as much as you talk.”

My Father


This is the first post in a 4-5 part series we’re going to cover on active listening.  A working definition of active listening is a process where a listener is working for clarification and understanding through questions and feedback.  Critical Doers have to be good active listeners to meet our philosophical mandates for achievement and bringing fulfillment not only to ourselves but to those we lead.  This is important because I truly believe that listening is becoming the lost art of communication.  There is no shortage of avenues for someone to talk.  People are constantly expressing themselves but they are not communicating because they are not listening.

Our first post will start with the basics of how to listen.  There are four things you must do to improve your listening skills, and you need to understand these as we progress through the series.  To help you remember the four critical elements of being a good listener, you must be able to HEAR:

  1. H – Halt your tongue. Besides being poor manners, talking when another person is speaking is a barrier to communication as it signals lack of interest in the speaker’s message.  Refrain from jumping in at mid-sentence before a thought is complete…some things are more complex than 144 characters can explain.  Halt your tongue includes your electronics…don’t communicate that everyone is more important than the person standing in front of you.  Focus on what the other person is saying so you can comprehend…this can’t happen if you’re so focused on what you want to say next that you’re not taking in the message from another person.
  2. E – Empathy.  Critical Doers listen to understand…not necessarily debate…because we know understanding leads to action.  Active listening implies striving to understand not only the message but the messenger and what motivates their point of view.  Empathy in active listening will help you unravel why…the source of all great accomplishments.
  3. A- Ask smart questions. Quickly review two of my previous posts on asking the right questions and interests versus positions.  Use the guidelines in these posts to formulate questions that illuminate rather than alienate, kindle discussion rather than dowse it, and lead to understanding rather than judgment.
  4. R Recap.  In active listening, you’ll frequently hear the phrase “if I heard you correctly” to recap a key sentence or idea.  This one phrase demonstrates sincerity in understanding, ensures accuracy, and gives a speaker the opportunity to recant an emotional statement that is unproductive when the words are spoken by another.

Remember Critical Doers, the objective of active listening is not to debate and get to a point of right or wrong…it is to get to a point of mutual understanding that allows action to begin.  Active listening is an art that takes practice but there is no facet of communication that will allow you to do more than being an effective listener.

Your challenge is to think through a situation where action is stalled and see if communication is the problem more than process or resources.  Now that you’ve learned to HEAR, approach communication as an active listener and see if less talking leads to better understanding which turns into meaningful action. It’s what a Critical Doer would…do!


Reminder:  you can get automatic updates from The Critical Doer by using the subscription widget at the bottom of this post.  You can also follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  I also encourage you to let me know what you think of the posts or share a story of your own using the comments section or email me directly at [email protected].


Updated: April 14, 2015 — 2:22 am