Becoming an Active Listener

Lesson 7/7 - Putting it Together


Becoming an Active Listener


Lesson Info

Putting it Together

Putting it all together. I mean we've been through this, but it's really just trying to sum it up and kind of condense it so that we can recall it. So hearing is a gift, our hearing is a gift to us. I mean the fact that we can hear is a gift. It's a biological gift. For the people that don't have hearing, think about them in terms of how they, they're fantastic listeners, by the way, people that do not have hearing because they don't get involved in all the word stuff that goes on like yada-yada-yada-yada stuff. They really do have to use, talk about using body language and nonverbal skills, but hearing is a gift and listening is a skill. By that we mean that we can learn how to listen, we just have to apply ourselves and want to. We have to want to listen. So give your undivided attention, be present as we've talked a lot about. That to me I think is the hardest thing to do because we have to compartmentalize 'cause otherwise things will creep in to our brains as we're trying to liste...

n, the interruptions. You get the alerts because a new piece of news is coming, or the text is going, et cetera, et cetera. So staying present is actually the most difficult thing to do. Be involved and engaged. We talked about that with eye contact, body language. Don't judge or formulate (chuckles) rebuttals or counter arguments. That's that piece of where listen, and Jane, it kinda goes back to what you were saying about the client. Don't judge what they're saying and don't be thinking about how you're going to respond to what they're saying. Just listen, going back to what we said at the very beginning, listen for comprehension. Do you understand the problem that he is having or the project that he is giving you? Are there places where you need clarification? That's where writing notes can help us too, but you're not sitting there going, Well, I don't agree with that so I'm gonna say this, or, I don't care if he doesn't like the color green. It needs to be green! (chuckles) I'm trivializing, but just to make a point. Let the person finish speaking. Don't interrupt. That's also a very difficult thing to do especially if you disagree with what the person's saying. It's very easy just to nod, "Yes, absolutely," if (chuckles) you're agreeing, but it's very difficult not to interrupt somebody if they're actually saying something that you don't disagree with or don't find to be interesting. Ask questions, clarify, write notes. Open-ended questions are the best because a closed-end question usually has some of your own personal bias in it. So, again, asking open-ended questions is much better, and as I say, I cannot say enough about writing. Maintain the romance between the hand and the head. So back to the benefits which we started off with. So trust and respect, we've talked a lot about that. We all want that. We all want better relationships. Active listening is the path to that. Understanding issues, formulating better solutions. You might think that this is just kind of more of a work situation, but we solve problems everyday in our lives so being able to kind of do that just makes it so much easier for ourselves. Diffusing conflict. It's very easy for an argument to escalate. I heard this interesting interview with Jay-Z and the editor of the New York Times magazine and this is about kind of listening with the body language and he was talking about how in the neighborhood that he grew up in how a lot of fights started just by looking at somebody. If you think about kind of that classic kind of you're walking down the street or something, "Who you looking at?" He said he remembers this distinct time when he was in the neighborhood and he was just walking through the neighborhood and this other gentlemen kind of turned around very aggressively, "What are you looking at?" and he said it wasn't until, he suddenly realized that what, he wasn't actually saying, "What are you looking at?" He was actually saying, "Oh god, you see me." As Jay-Z said, it was he thought, the person that said, "Who are you looking at?" and tried to start a fight was actually saying, "You see through me and you see my pain and my vulnerability "and I can't let you see that because I have to be strong." That is about picking up on that body language, tone of voice, seeing beyond what is being said, and to me, while it might not be an obvious active listening, if you really think about the totality of active listening, it's a great example of how Jay-Z actually saw what was really going on, understood the real problem which didn't come from the words but from the totality of the actions. So I think from a diffusing conflict, it's a really interesting story. Then obviously we've talked about a key leadership skill, leadership skill whether you have your own studio, whether you work by yourself, you're leaders. You're leaders in everything that you do in your life and work, leading in terms of getting the right answers or the answers that help validate you with your child. So, yeah, so kind of that brings it all together. The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways. I mean we're really at a point now where education is really not so much about kind of what to learn, but how to learn. We have to be flexible. We have to be adaptable. The workplace is evolving. How we work is evolving. How we interact with each other has changed dramatically. So skills now, and particularly life skills and what are called soft skills, become increasingly important because we don't know what we're gonna be doing from a work perspective in 10 years time. We don't know how we're gonna work. So these skills in terms of interpersonal skills, the more we use technology, they become even more important. So how can you actually practice this? So we've talked about observing people, others in conversation in social and/or work settings, so just observing how people are interacting with each other, what you can make out, how much do you understand just from body language and facial expressions. Learn with a friend or colleague. Have them share a story like we were doing here where then they share a story to you, and you have to then be able to recall it so you have to show them that you were actively listening, and then vice versa. That's a good way to do it is just with friends. As you say, friends are not gonna judge. They're not gonna judge you as we were talking about earlier. You're emotionally invested, so they should be happy to help and support you because it really is about practice. It's about practice. Break down the task (chuckles). So back to your to-do list (chuckles), but break down the tasks into smaller more attainable goals. There is this great book that has been written by two behavioral scientists from the UK, Owain Service and Rory Gallagher and it's called Think Small. It's think small to achieve big goals and it's really the thing that we, we practice it very well if we work in kind of project-management type position where we break everything down into smaller steps and then we have the kind of the consequences of those smaller steps. It's a classic project management skill. But when you're trying to learn a complex skill like active listening that involves more than one thing, break it down. So it's like, so say I'm going to work on not (slaps) interrupting before (chuckles) the person is finished speaks. Take your barriers and kind of break them down and then practice that. If you achieve that, it's gonna make you feel better if you actually notice that you're interrupting people less or you're setting aside your work more when people come in and want to talk to you as we talked about, just being conscious of one thing that you can do to move yourself down the path of becoming an active listener rather than trying to take it all on at once because that way, again, being the humans that we are, we take on a big goal, we're less likely to achieve it. If we take on lots of small goals that bleed to the big goal, we're more likely to achieve it. That's what this book talks about, Think Small, is they come out of this amazing behavioral science center in the UK. So it's amazing how it works if you just break things down, and then practice, practice, practice, practice. So you have all been amazing active listeners today. Thank you so much for your attention. I really appreciate it.

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.



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!