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Courageous Conversations: How to Listen Actively

Active listening is the ‘superpower’ of managers during their courageous conversation.

To actively listen during a difficult conversation, managers can employ several techniques as outlined below:

  1. Pause and Wait: Give the speaker a few seconds after they finish speaking to see if they have more to add, allowing them to fill in their own blanks[1].
  2. Take Notes: Especially when you notice the person is opening up in an unintended way, ask for permission to write down important points to show genuine interest in what they have to say[1].
  3. Reflect Back: Repeat the person’s words back to them at appropriate times, trying to use their own words rather than rephrasing it, to ensure understanding and show empathy[1].
  4. Focus and Make Eye Contact: Pay attention and maintain meaningful eye contact with the speaker to demonstrate interest and attention[3].
  5. Acknowledge Points Made: Nod and acknowledge the points made by the speaker, providing appropriate feedback to show that you are actively engaged in the conversation[3].
  6. Reflect on What You Heard: Repeat back what you heard from the speaker and ask if you understood correctly, ensuring clarity and demonstrating that you are genuinely interested in their perspective[4].

By incorporating these active listening techniques, managers can engage more effectively in difficult conversations, foster understanding, and build stronger relationships through empathetic communication.