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5 Traits of an Effective Listener in Leadership

Not being heard is like shouting into a void. Our words bounce back as a cavernous echo with no response or acknowledgement. It's a frustrating feeling, like you're invisible, unimportant, and insignificant. As people, we all have a need for our thoughts and ideas to be well-received and valued.

Employees need to be actively listened to, not just heard. There’s a big difference between the two. Are you actively listening to your people? Check out these 5 traits of an active listener:

  1. Paying Attention: Active listeners are focused on the speaker and avoid distractions, such as phone notifications or external noises. They maintain eye contact, use appropriate facial expressions, and ask clarifying questions when necessary.

  2. Withholding Judgment: Active listeners refrain from making assumptions or forming opinions before fully understanding the speaker's message. They remain neutral and open-minded, giving the speaker space to share their perspective without interruption.

  3. Paraphrasing: Active listeners restate what the speaker said in their own words to ensure they understand correctly. This demonstrates to the speaker that they have been heard and allows for any misunderstandings to be clarified.

  4. Reflecting Feelings: Active listeners acknowledge and respond to the speaker's emotions. They use phrases such as "It sounds like you're feeling..." or "I can imagine that would be frustrating" to validate the speaker's emotions.

  5. Providing Feedback: Active listeners give constructive feedback to the speaker, such as summarizing key points, asking questions to clarify information, or providing suggestions for resolution. This demonstrates to the speaker that their message was heard and understood.

Don’t just “hear” your employees, actively listen to them. By demonstrating these traits, leaders can build trust, strengthen relationships, and promote effective communication with others.

Dr. Merrylue Martin is President and CEO of the Job Joy Group and best-selling author of the Big Quit Survival Guide. To learn more, visit and connect with Merrylue on LinkedIn.


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