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The Power of Listening

Project Management Training Part 5

How do you feel when you are listened to? How do you feel when you are not listened to? When someone who listens to me asks me for something, what are you likely to do? What about when you are asked by someone who doesn't listen to you? You can jot some thoughts/responses to those questions here:

Passive and Active Listening

Passive Listening is listening without reacting:
  • Allowing someone to speak, without interrupting
  • Not doing anything else at the same time
Active listening is reacting or doing something that demonstrates you are listening and have understood.
  • Giving non-verbal cues to demonstrate you are paying attention (nodding, making eye contact, making facial expressions appropriate to what is being said)
  • Reflecting back the main points and summarising what has been said
Non-verbal cues happen naturally, providing you really are listening. If you concentrate on making the non-verbal cues, then you probably arenít listening

Guidelines for listening well

Prior to listening:
  • stop whatever you were doing
  • arrange the chairs comfortably, eg: in ten-to-two format
  • ideally, sit in comfortable/easy chairs
  • remove any barriers between you - eg: donít sit on the other side of a desk
  • ensure there will not be any interruptions - close the office door and put your phone on divert
  • If you anticipate making notes, get the personís permission. Be aware that this may formalise the discussion and thereby restrict the openness of information you may be given.

As the person is speaking:

  • Focus completely on what the person is saying. Donít do any other activity or think about any other topic.
  • Mentally note the main points they are making, ready for summarising.
  • Listen not only to the words that are said, but also the tone of voice and body language - eg: if they are nervous, excited, depressed.
  • If any relevant points occur to you, donít say them immediately - keep them on a separate mental list of your own ideas, for use at an appropriate point.
  • Donít think about your own ideas so that you end up not listening, or forgetting what the person has said.
  • Donít interrupt.
  • Donít ask questions (questions are a push or pull, not active listening).
Project Management Training: Soft Skills Tools

Project Management Training



Trust and Rapport


Winning Commitment


Using Power



Small Teams

Group Conflicts

Team Development

Managing Difference


Team Islands

In/Out Groups

Building the wider team

Large Projects

Project Culture

Putting it all together

When you summarise

  • At appropriate breaks summarise the main points they have been making.
  • Summarise as accurately as possible - even if you disagree with their view, summarise what they have said first.
  • You donít have to repeat everything theyíve said - just the key points.
  • After you have summarised, allow opportunity for the person to comment on your summary (eg: to correct it, or to mention any points that you may have missed, or to discuss any ideas that the summary raises).

Be aware that as soon as you start talking about your own ideas or views, then you have stopped listening and swapped roles (eg you are the talker, and the other person is the listener; or by asking questions, you are setting a new agenda which may be different from the agenda of the person you are supposed to be listening to).

Listening is just one tool in your management toolbox - but remember that the most common tendency in business is for people to spend too much time talking, and too little time listening.


Do you need to improve your listening? If so, what are you going to do to listen better in future?

The next article in this online course is:

Project Management Training:
Soft Skills Part 6: Using Power

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