Listening to understand

December 15, 2016 | Ro Crosbie, President, Tero International

Take a minute to write down the names of the people in your life who you consider to be excellent listeners. 

How many names are on the list?

Sadly, most of us cannot name more than two or three people we consider to be great listeners. Since each of us is estimated to have a circle of influence or network of 250 people (the number of people you know on a first-name basis or the number of people who would attend your wedding or your funeral), only being able to name a small few when reflecting on listening skills is a sad commentary.

How do you feel about the people on your list? If you’re like most of us, you have a lot of respect for these individuals.  That’s the power of listening.

What would it mean to your success as a leader if your name turned up when the people you work with were asked to name the excellent listeners in their life?

Why don’t we listen more effectively?

We all recognize how important listening is, and we can list many benefits. We all intend to listen well. Why don’t most of us listen more effectively?

Here are two reasons:

  1. There is a prevailing belief that because we can hear, we can listen. Some of the best listeners in the world are deaf people, providing evidence that listening is much more than hearing words and is within the reach of anyone who chooses to acquire the skill.
  2. If you’ve ever heard (or said) “Shut up and listen,” you have fallen into the trap of believing listening is a passive activity that doesn’t demand active participation. Listening is an active sport that engages the other party, checks for understanding, notices what isn’t said and clarifies conflicting information, all while making the other person feel important.

Listening to respond

Even people who are skilled in listening are typically listening to respond (what am I going to say next?) rather than listening to understand. Listening to understand is a higher level of listening, and few of us are skilled in it.

Check out this short video clip for tips on improving your listening skills. For one day, commit to Level 1 listening and see how it impacts your relationships.

This blog post first appeared on To learn more about Tero visit