Active, Purposeful Listening

by Annie Harvey

Most of us think that we’re great listeners – just like we think we’re great at multi-tasking. Studies show that the average person listens at 25% efficiency. Listening well creates trust, discovers motivation and increases the likelihood that conflicts will resolve in a win-win.

One of the most powerful ways to influence someone’s behavior is to actively listen. Great leaders know that effective leadership equals effective listening. Active, purposeful listeners listen to hear and understand what’s most important to the speaker.


Some tips on how to listen actively and purposefully:

Determine what’s important to the speaker.
Listen and watch for tone of voice, repetitive information, pauses, length of speaking and facial expressions. These signs help you determine what’s important to them.

Allow people to complete their sentences.
Don’t interrupt. This is their time to be heard. Build-in a timeframe at the start if needed. “The next 15 minutes are all yours.” Then give them their time.

Listen to words, tone and actions.
Words, tone and body language are important to listen effectively. Also, don’t assume. Clarify and check if it’s a mixed message.

Don’t tune them out.
Don’t turn someone off if the topic seems dull or boring to you. You’re listening to hear and understand what’s important to them.

Ignore distractions.
How you listen to someone determines what they do or don’t tell you. Close doors, move away from email and put your phone on mute. Set the right environment to listen purposefully.


When listening, show respect and remove judgmental attitudes. A good listener doesn’t get trapped in emotions. Listening is a skill and discipline. When used effectively you’ll see the timesaving and results active, purposeful listening provides.