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Becoming an Active Listener

Lesson 1 of 7

Class Introduction

Gaynor Strachan Chun

Becoming an Active Listener

Gaynor Strachan Chun

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Lesson Info

1. Class Introduction

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

I wanna start with a question. How many of you have walked out of a meeting or a conversation with some people only to find that you had a completely different take on what happened than everybody else did? Have you ever had that situation happen to you? I know I've had it happen to me, it happens a lot, right? You think that everybody's on the same page, you think that we're kind of like, you know, all in agreement on what we're gonna do next, only to find out that some people think this, some people think that. The reason for that is because we get distracted, right? We have a lot of distractions these days, whether it's our devices, whether it's things going through our head about the things that we have to do that day, you got 10 million things going on, and so what happens is we don't listen. We think we're listening, but we're not actually really listening. So today we're gonna talk about how to become a better active listener, and it's really important. The benefits of active li...

stening are really, really valuable for us. Active listening is actually one of those skills that is fundamental to what they call social intelligence. It's about how you interact with people. And ultimately, even though today we sit behind our screens a lot, we sit behind our phones a lot, we email, we message, at some point you are going to actually have to talk to somebody. Actually interact with somebody. And more and more these days, and the more and more that we sit behind our screens the less able we are to actually interact with people kind of like in a very comprehensive manner. So the benefits, I'm just gonna run through the benefits here and then we'll kind of flip into what actually active listening is all about. You earn the trust and respect of your peers. I mean, who does not want to earn trust and respect? That's what we're all looking for, right, when we're working, or even with our friends. You can build better relationships at work and in life if you actually are an active listener. You understand issues and therefore are able to come up with better solutions because you're actually hearing the issue, listening to the issue, not listening for how you are going to respond, is one of the big, big lessons. And then you can also help kind of like, you know, diffuse conflict if you're actually really listening to somebody, and it's a key leadership skill. A lot of employers really look for active listening as a leadership skill. If you can't listen to somebody, it means you don't understand them, you can't get to know them, you can't understand where they're coming from and where they are trying to get to, and so it's very difficult, then, to even kind of help steer them or really listen and understand what their issues are. So, active listening actually requires more than our ears. We'll talk about this a little bit later on, but we hear with our ears, but we listen with our brain. And so active listening is much more than just hearing, it's actually about, you know, taking into account body language, facial expressions, posture, how people are standing, their tone of their voice, how their eyes are looking, or if they suddenly kind of like, you know, get a little stiff or look a little anxious, it involves asking questions, it involves actually following directions, so what is the direction that that person is going in, and ultimately it involves actually visualizing. So it involves all of our senses, not just our ears, and that's the critical thing about active listening. So today what we're gonna cover is we're going to talk about coming face to face. To actually practice and become a better active listening, you do actually have to be in the same room as the person. (laughs) It's very difficult to bring all your senses to play, right, even if you're on the phone, or it's particular if you're just behind a screen, or you're texting, or you're instant messaging, or you're emailing. So coming face to face is the first thing that you actually have to do in order to be able to become a better active listening, 'cause it's only when you're face to face that you have all your senses available to you, and you can see all the reactions from the person that you're talking to. So we'll talk a little bit about that. The science of listening, so I'll give you a little bit of background about the science of listening. I'm listening, but are we really? So what are the barriers. I'm gonna talk quite a bit about barriers, 'cause unfortunately like with any skill you have to break down the barriers that you have first before you can then actually move forward to learning the skill itself. So barriers is a big issue for active listening, especially just given our lifestyles today. Then we'll talk about what we can learn from artists. Actors, musicians, they're great active listeners, so we'll talk a little bit about some of the lessons that we can learn from them. And then the power of active listening, so why go to all this trouble? You know, active listening is not easy, it requires us to basically shut up and shut out everything else that's in our heads, so it's not easy, but it is a really, really powerful skill and really does involve a lot of other communication skills so you're learning all communication skills at the same time when you actually learn how to be an active listener. And then we'll put it all together, and I'll give you some useful tools and tips for five ways that you can actually practice. And then in terms of what I hope that you're gonna get out of this lesson, for those of you in the studio and for those of you watching this live, how active listening actually helps us understand each other, and communicate, and build trust. Understand the barriers and how to overcome them. Discover the skills every great artist has in terms of being an active listener, and then, as I said before, we'll learn five active listening practices and techniques. So, let's take a little bit of just a few minutes and do a little moment of reflection, and try here to start thinking about active listening where you're actually, forget about everything that you've left at work or at home, all the million things you know you have to get done today and just try and just, like, focus on this thing. So let's take a few minutes and reflect on situations where you feel that you've been misunderstood, or misconstrued. So think about kind of like, you know, what the person who misunderstood you was actually doing at that time. Were they listening to you, were they distracted? If they were distracted, how were they distracted? How did that make you feel? And then think about a situation where you misunderstood somebody, and what were you doing at that time? So just take a few minutes and if anybody has an example that they can share that would be great. I have an example I can share while you're kind of thinking about it if you want, but yeah, if you just take a minute. Does anybody have any examples they can think of? I think a lot of people, perhaps, think of work situations. Yeah that's a good idea. Often, you know, in a meeting situation where you're trying to express your point or idea or thoughts on whatever the topic might be, and I think a lot of people find frustration in getting other members of the team to get onto the same level as them or understand. Right, I think that's a really good situation. There's also the situation where you're trying to get something across, and somebody cuts you off. They don't let you finish speaking, all right, because they are so anxious to get their opinion in there, which seems to be kind of like a real thing these days, everybody wants their voice to be heard, and in doing so they forget about the fact that there's somebody else talking, and they're so anxious to get their opinion in. And that's a problem because they're not actually hearing what you're saying, what they're doing is thinking about what they want to say, and that is a classic case of where people don't hear each other, really don't hear each other. There's also lots of other situations too, even in kind of like, you know, walk into a Starbucks, right, and somebody kind of like, you're in line, but somebody then comes in and wants to use the bathroom, they just kind of cut across you, right. They're not paying any attention to what is really happening. Or somebody walking down the street, even, kind of like, you know, paying attention, 'cause they're looking at their phone, and they're not paying attention. And all of those, even though they may not involve a conversation, really comes down to what the core of active listening is which is paying attention, being present for somebody. And it's very difficult to do, I know, because we all have so much going on, but it's a really good lesson to learn. What other examples could we have? So Laura had a good example of getting your point across, right? Somebody online had also compared a similar situation to their personal life as well, you know, just with their relationship, trying to get your point across, not just in a work environment but also in a relationship. Work and life. Yeah. Yep. And that's the thing, active listening is not just about work, right? It's about actually the relationships that you have and how you can build better relationships by understanding. That's what I was thinking of, interpersonal relationships, the longer or the better I know somebody the less I feel like I'm present, because I feel like I can be thinking about other things at the same time. Now that's interesting, that's an interesting point. So the more you think you know somebody you think you can be less present. Hmm, yeah, but in fact you should still be listening to them, even though you're not, right? Because you think you know what they're gonna say. They become, in some ways you think maybe some relationships become a little predictable, right? And so you know where they're gonna go. But again, for that person, think about how that person might feel if you are continuing to do something and you probably say, oh yeah, I'm listening, I'm listening, but you're really not. It happened to me with my husband the other night, you know, I was still prepping for this and he came in and he wanted to tell me something, and I'm still typing away on my laptop, and it's like, I'm going yeah, I'm listening, I'm listening. I wasn't really listening to him at all. And that's frustrating for the other person, it's really frustrating. But that's interesting yeah, that's an interesting point. I think that sometime we don't wanna stop, because is it really important to stop what we are doing to understand that when someone is talking to us that they are sharing part of themselves, and if we can really become aware of the importance that if someone is talking to us we are maybe special for the things that they are saying, and so sometime we miss the point. Yeah, we miss the point, right, because we don't wanna stop. But on the other hand, too, if you think about it from the other person's point of view, if they see that you're doing something they should actually probably ask you if it's a good time, right, is this a good time to have this conversation? Right, because I mean, it works both ways, right, it works both ways. I mean, it's like, you know, again, if you would always say that in a work situation, you would say, do you have a few minutes, you know, to sit down and talk to me about this? But in our personal lives sometimes we forget, we forget those kind of steps and we just kind of cut straight in. So, but no, those are all good examples.

Class Description

When we talk about good communication skills, we usually focus on how we speak—our tone, stance, confidence, and ability to effectively convey our message. But communication is a two-way street. Just as important is our ability to listen.

Listening, as opposed to simply hearing, is active not passive. Active listening requires concentrating on what’s being said, giving our full attention to the speaker and providing visual cues that we are truly understanding. Active listening is one of the most powerful skills for building deeper, more productive connections.

In the digital age, when many of us spend more time in front of a screen than face to face with others, it’s more important than ever to understand the fine art of listening.

Gaynor Strachan Chun, renowned marketer, speaker and thought leader, will address the barriers to and benefits of active listening, and help you develop a skill that will bring more trust and respect to your business and personal relationships.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Avoid being misunderstood, misconstrued and on “the ladder of inference.”
  • Overcome the barriers to being an active listener.
  • Use visual cues such as nodding and smiling to demonstrate listening.
  • Respond to your interlocutor with eye contact and nonverbal sounds.
  • Focus fully on the what’s being said and not get distracted.
  • Have the right posture to convey active listening.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Active Listening Resource Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



Gaynor provides insight and practical tips for improving active listening skills that are valuable in both business and personal relationships. This class breaks down why active listening is important in furthering communication which leads to greater creativity and productivity. Gaynor has shown me that practicing active listening will help me empower others and make my work more impactful.


Valuable, applicable and productive course. Gaynor presents the topics so well and applies takeaways that can be put in motion immediately. Highly recommended!