Listening Leader


People are crying out to be heard. Many of us usually do not feel heard, so a listening leader is an attractive leader.

People are crying out to be heard. Although most people do not verbalize these feelings in a group, they want to be heard and known. If someone hears me, they will know me, and if they know me, they might like me. Then I will have a place to belong. Often in relationships or small group settings, we are busy out-talking each other, or thinking of what we are going to say next, rather than truly listening to what someone is sharing.

People usually do not feel heard or understood in groups, so a listening leader is an attractive leader. If you learn to truly listen to people, you’ll be so popular that the whole planet will want to talk to you!

How to Listen:

1. Be Quiet

The most simple and obvious way to be a listening leader is to be quiet. When we are leading a discussion, we may get nervous about a quiet pause, so we rush to fill up the awkwardness. Rather than letting people consider a question and delve inside themselves for the answer, we start talking and answer the question ourselves. Just be quiet after you ask a question. Silently count to twenty. Eventually someone in the group will start talking. The leader should talk less than the other group members.

2. Follow the Three R’s: Repeat – Rephrase  Reflect

Someone in your small group has just said, “I’m concerned about an ethical issue at my workplace, and I’m not sure who I can trust.”

The first step in listening is to simply repeat what the other person has said. This may feel strange, because you sound like a parrot, saying exactly what the other person said. However, the other person feels affirmed that you are listening to them, and they don’t even notice that you are repeating their words.

The next step of listening is to rephrase their words. This is similar to repeating, but using different words. The speaker again feels affirmed and listened to, because you are focusing on their concerns.

Listen for the heart behind the words. This woman is concerned about her own integrity and also the security of her job. After you have repeated and rephrased her words, you can reflect on the feelings behind her words and affirm her feelings and share her concerns.

 How Not to Listen:

  • Don’t give advice. The person wants to be heard, not to become a project.
  • Don’t judge or criticize. A quick critical response will shut down any further sharing.
  • Don’t switch to your own story. Even though you think your own experience may be relevant, focusing on your own related story does not make the person feel heard.
  • Don’t ask distracting questions. We may think questions show that we are listening, but sometimes questions distract from the real meaning and just focus on what we want to get out of the conversation.

Written ​by Stacie Maslyn

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