“What Did You Say?” Tips for Active Listening on the Job

Listening. It’s a skill we learned to use and hone in on way back in kindergarten, but sadly, it’s not something we’ve all mastered. In college, it may have been your philosophy professor whose lectures put you to sleep. Now, years later, it might be a three-hour conference call, which tests your attentive listening skills or perhaps an extensive sales pitch in a meeting room. For those times you’re having trouble paying attention on the job, follow these few tips for successful listening:

Show Interest

One of the best ways to actively listen is to set yourself up for success. When you’re on a video conferencing call from your home office, face the speaker on the screen, maintain eye contact, and nod or agree at appropriate times. Adding in short commentary, such as “Interesting,” or “Is that so?” may also help to keep you actively engaged.


Whether it’s a presentation or a conference call, slow down and listen specifically to the words the speaker is saying. Refrain from formulating a rebuttal or getting stuck on one point of the presentation, which will only further distract you. Additionally, don’t allow yourself to fiddle with your pen or doodle in your notepad. The more engaged you are at watching the speaker, the more likely you are to key in on what he or she is presenting.

Don’t Interrupt

There’s only a few things more unprofessional than interrupting a potential client or cutting off your boss during a video conference call. Interrupting gives off the impression you may not care to listen to their point of view and your opinions or views are more important. Not to mention, when you’re focused on interjecting your voice into the conversation or presentation, you’re probably not listening. Make a mental – or even physical - note of what you’d like to convey once the speaker has finished, and remain engaged with your ears open until it is your turn to speak.

Sometimes when you’re not physically in the room with your clients, business partners, or fellow coworkers, it can be tough to remain actively engaged, especially if the meeting or call runs for hours on end. For listening success whether you’re meeting in the same room or remotely, remember what it feels like to be on the other side; a speaker presenting to a yawning audience.


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