Listen Up! Why Effective Communication Begins with Listening

Active listening is pivotal to effective communication, advancing emotional intelligence, and increasing empathy. In my book, The Power of Emotion, I share strategies to build these skills and strengthen relationships.


Listening to Understand: Keys to Meaningful Interactions

Linda Marshall Author article, Listen Up! Why Effective Communication Begins with Listening

Listening Impacts Emotional Intelligence, Communication, and Relationships.

"We speak in order to be heard and need to be heard in order to be understood." (- R. Jakobson and L. Waugh, 1979, The Sound Shape of Language)

If you want to tell the person you're speaking with that you care and are interested in what they are saying, pay close attention and listen carefully.

Why Is Active Listening So Important?

Most of us speak with the intention to be heard, which means knowing who you're communicating to, what you want them to retain, and what questions you'd like them to answer. We want those around us to listen and understand our communication. By genuinely listening, we relate authentically and can develop strong, lasting relationships. It is a critical part of communication that will build intuition and dictate the quality of our relationships.

Listening is much more than just hearing the collective words. Did you know that a spoken message is...

  •  7% is conveyed by the words used.

  •  38% is indicated by the tone of the voice.

  •  55% of the meaning is translated non-verbally. * Source: Mehrabian, 1981 

Without question, we need to hear what is said and what is not said during communication with everyone we encounter. I believe this is the secret ingredient to positive relationships.  

Have You Been Talking With Someone Who Is Not Listening To You?

You likely have been talking with someone who was not listening to you. We have all had an experience where the person you speak with is not paying attention.

Hey, I've caught myself more than once drifting off during a conversation, thinking of something pressing that I have to do, or feeling bored with the conversation. When this happens, we are not only being rude, we're missing information, and there is a good possibility we are demonstrating a lack of empathy.

What Does Empathy Have To Do With Listening?

Active listening helps us retain more information and better understand the communicator. 

It strengthens our compassion and empathy, critical factors in boosting emotional intelligence. Listening with empathy is the greatest form of active listening. It displays we hear what is shared, with a clear understanding of what the speaker means and how they feel. When we respond, we acknowledge that we understand what the speaker shared and how their communication made us feel – We demonstrate that we care about them and what they say to us.

10 Ways To Practise Active Listening

  1. Maintain Eye Contact: Show attentiveness by making eye contact with the speaker.

  2. Avoid Interrupting: Let the speaker finish their thoughts before responding.

  3. Paraphrase What You Heard: Repeat back what you've heard in your own words to confirm understanding.

  4. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage more detailed responses by asking questions that can't be answered with a simple "yes" or "no."

  5. Minimize Distractions: Put away electronic devices and focus solely on the conversation.

  6. Show Nonverbal Cues: Nodding, smiling, and using other nonverbal cues indicate that you're engaged in the conversation.

  7. Reflect Feelings: Acknowledge the emotions behind the speaker's words to convey empathy.

  8. Summarize Key Points: Periodically recap the main points to reinforce your understanding.

  9. Withhold Judgment: Suspend judgment and avoid forming conclusions prematurely.

  10. Be Present Mentally: Stay mentally engaged and avoid letting your mind wander during the conversation.

Here's the thing: we show we care when we demonstrate strong communication and empathy skills when actively listening to others. We can practise this skill, elevating our emotional intelligence and strengthening relationships. In my book, The Power of Emotion, you can find many more strategies to develop emotional intelligence. 

This article was originally published on February 17, 2023, and was updated November 2023).

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The Power of Emotion Book, Linda Marshall Author

The Power of Emotion Book, Linda Marshall Author

The Power of Emotion Book, Linda Marshall Author


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