7 Tips to Lead by Active Listening

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One of the most frustrating situations in life is not being heard by others. Conversely, when others feel they are not being heard by you, it can be equally frustrating for them.

Poor listening skills affect communication, and this may lead to costly mistakes, including workplace injuries. One way to improve communication is to practice active listening, defined as the act of deliberately hearing and comprehending the meaning of words spoken by another person in a conversation or speech. It usually involves indications of attentiveness, such as giving feedback in the form of paraphrasing what has been said by the other party to confirm understanding.

Read the information below and ask yourself how you can improve your active-listening skills.


Do not interrupt employees while they are expressing their ideas for a solution. Also, do not try to fill a pause in the conversation while the other person is thinking. Give the person time to gather his or her thoughts.

1. Be in the moment. Focus on the person talking to you. Put away your cell phone, face the person speaking, and make eye contact. Avoid unnecessary distractions, like multi-tasking or talking to others as they pass.

2. Ask open-ended or specific questions to clarify understanding. For example, “What changes can we make?” is an open-ended question. A specific question might be, “How many hours will it take?”

3. Affirm understanding by paraphrasing or summarizing what you have heard, for example, “Let me restate that to make sure I understand you correctly.” You can also mention a similar situation to demonstrate your engagement in the conversation.

4. Be mindful of receiver bias. It may be tempting to interrupt someone speaking or cut them off because you might already know what the speaker is going to say. Don’t do it. Be open minded and let the person say what he or she needs to say. Hold your biases in check and don’t give advice unless asked.

5. Watch your body language. Nonverbal cues say a great deal about our reactions to things we hear. For example, nodding affirmation conveys understanding. Frowning can tell the speaker you disagree or take exception with what was said. Avoid overly defensive or aggressive body language.

6. Empathize with the speaker. Try to put yourself in the speaker’s shoes and understand where he or she is coming from. Focus your attention on the speaker’s welfare and interests.

7. Be approachable and show interest in what others have to say. Making yourself open to casual conversation helps build relationships. Don’t be anxious to leave or show your impatience by checking your watch or phone.


  • Focus on what the speaker is saying.
  • Use positive, nonverbal actions, like facing the speaker, making eye contact, and nodding affirmation.

  • Summarize or paraphrase what you hear.
  • Ask open-ended or specific questions to clarify what you have heard.

The information in this article is provided as a courtesy of Great West Casualty Company and is part of the Value-Driven® Company program. Value-Driven Company was created to help educate and inform insureds so they can make better decisions, build a culture that values safety, and manage risk more effectively. To see what additional resources Great West Casualty Company can provide for its insureds, please contact your safety representative, or click below to find an agent.

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© Great West Casualty Company 2022. The material in this publication is the property of Great West Casualty Company unless otherwise noted and may not be reproduced without its written consent by any person other than a current insured of Great West Casualty Company for business purposes. Insured should attribute use as follows: “© Great West Casualty Company 2022. Used with permission by Great West Casualty Company.”

This material is intended to be a broad overview of the subject matter and is provided for informational purposes only. Great West Casualty Company does not provide legal advice to its insureds, nor does it advise insureds on employment-related issues. Therefore, the subject matter is not intended to serve as legal or employment advice for any issue(s) that may arise in the operations of its insureds. Legal advice should always be sought from the insured’s legal counsel. Great West Casualty Company shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, action, or inaction alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the information contained herein.