Are You Listening?


E : I'm so excited. We completed the project an entire month ahead of schedule.
      Person F : A month! That's amazing. Your customers must have been impressed.

Alternatively, person F could acknowledge person E's delight at his accomplishment:

      Person E : I'm so excited. We completed the project an entire month ahead of schedule.
      Person F : A month! No wonder you're so pleased.

There's no need for persons D or F to suppress their own accomplishments in these interactions Once they acknowledge what they have heard, they could offer an I-really-heard-you transition, such as:

      Person C : I found a great bargain on refurbished hardware.
      Person D : That ought to save you a bundle. I found a smartphone for half-price, so I'm pretty happy too.


      Person E : I'm so excited. We completed the project an entire month ahead of schedule.
      Person F : One whole month. That's amazing! That reminds me of the time I ...

In describing their own accomplishments, persons D and F give persons C and E an opportunity to demonstrate their listening skills.

I'm everything; you're nothing .
A related sign of non-listening is a response that seems intended to belittle or dismiss the speaker, such as:

      Person G : Wow, I found four serious bugs this week.
      Person H : Well, it'll really count when you can find a dozen.

Person H could simply say "Well, good for you!" which, of course, is what person G wants to hear.

Listen to me!
Most of the time, people who respond like persons B, D, F, and H mean no ill will; they are simply voicing a thought that popped into their head. And there's nothing wrong with such thought-popping. What's wrong- if you want to be viewed as a good listener-is redirecting the interaction to yourself without first acknowledging what the person has said.

If coworkers view you as a poor listener, chances are they aren't going to tell you so. Instead, they'll stash that impression in their mental database and let it color both their attitude towards you and their satisfaction with the work you're doing with or for them. But, this reaction is easy to avoid. Simply signal that you're really listening by responding in a way that stays on the topic and acknowledges what the speaker has said.

About the author

Naomi Karten's picture Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a highly experienced speaker and seminar leader who draws from her psychology and IT backgrounds to help organizations improve customer satisfaction, manage change, and strengthen teamwork. She has delivered seminars and keynotes to more than 100,000 people internationally. Naomi's newest books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Her other books and ebooks include Managing Expectations, Communication Gaps and How to Close Them, and How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions & Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. She is a regular columnist for When not working, Naomi's passion is skiing deep powder. Contact her at or via her Web site,

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