How Active Listening Promotes Inclusive Leadership

6 Mins

Studies have shown that immediately after listening to a 10-minute oral presentation, the average listener has heard, understood, and retained 50 percent of what was said. But within 48 hours, they lose another 50 percent. That’s only 25 percent of comprehension and retention in 2 days.

That means when you talk to your boss, team members, or customers, they are likely to retain less than half of the conversation. But it's not that we have poor memories. Rather, it’s that most of us simply don’t listen well.

Poor listening is a problem that all us at one point or another deal with — whether you’re the one listening poorly, or the person no one is listening to.

These forms of poor listening, like interruptions, mean that most people aren’t getting as much input from others as they could be.

Plus, in many cases, not listening can feel demoralizing or even discriminatory to others.

So how can you provide a space for all your employees to be heard?

Start by actually caring about what your team has to say. Practice active listening.

Active listening: the act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by your team across individual differences in a conversation or speech.

By practicing active listening, you increase productivity and add to your ability to communicate without conflict or misunderstanding.

How can you practice active listening?

1. Resist the urge to talk over others

Avoid making quick assumptions before the person finishes his statement. If you’re in a meeting and a team member has the floor, give them the floor. If you think of something you want to say, try jotting down keywords in notepad instead of interrupting.

2. Use your senses

Active listening is much more than just hearing. Pay attention to the speaker’s tone, facial, expression, and body language. Understand how others are feeling and acknowledge those feelings after a person has spoken.

3. Keep track of the points of the conversation

Do you understand the meaning and the key messages of the conversation? Summarize points and identify global themes and pain points while a person speaks. You can say for example, “Here are a few main points I heard from this meeting” or “ here are our points of agreement and disagreement.”

4. Ensure effective responses

Give appropriate replies and acknowledge what you hear. This includes eye contact, nodding, paraphrasing, and asking clarifying questions. Listen with the intention of absorbing rather than the intention of replying.

We’re all human. We’re all going to interrupt and lose track of conversation eventually. It's unavoidable. But the best thing we can do is be aware of our tendencies for passive listening and actively give the floor back.

Quiz 1 of 1

Many employees on Finn's team feel like they rarely get a chance to speak in the weekly meetings because Finn always interrupts them mid-sentence. What can Finn do to be a more active listener and make his employees feel their input matters?

Finn resists the urge to interrupt by telling his team to interrupt and speak up more in meetings like him.
Finn resists the urge to interrupt by scribbling down his thoughts on a notepad.
Finn resists the urge to interrupt and searches online the topics the person is talking about.
Finn resists the urge to interrupt by leaving the room when it's someone else's turn to speak.


In your next meeting, practice active listening by not interrupting your team member when they have the floor. Ask clarifying questions when appropriate to show the employee they are being heard.

Lesson complete

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