How to Listen with the Goal of Learning


Well Thanksgiving is over.  How’d it go — pants fitting a little tighter and wallet a little lighter?  What about all that time eating and talking with family, friends, and strangers?  Did you “tune out” everyone so you could dive into the turkey, or, find yourself constantly trying to get the attention of your favorite cousin because she was too busy doing the same to you?

I’ve seen this happen time and time again over the holiday season when family and friends get together.  And as a business transformation keynote speaker and executive coach, I’ve seen it happen repetitively in businesses across all industries and sizes — customers, clients, and colleagues don’t feel “heard” by their leadership.  And leadership can’t understand why their customers, clients, and colleagues are unhappy and unproductive.

Often the culprit is a lack of deep, active listening.  That is, as successful, busy leaders we are too distracted with too many competing priorities and not enough time or resources to get everything done.  So leaders don’t really hear what is being said.  And if you are not truly listening deeply and actively, you are not going to make the best decisions possible.  And if you are not making the best choices, you are adversely affecting your career, company, and community. 


Here are three simple steps that will immediately strengthen your active listening muscle, help you to make better decisions, and grow as a leader:

Step 1:  Before meeting with anyone — either in person or on the phone — do a tech-purge.  Put your cell phone away, close your laptop, turn off and/or take off any other distracting web-connected devices.  

Step 2:  Take five slow, deep, belly-expanding breaths.  It will take you maybe 15 seconds to do this.  This will help you to clear your mind and literally, become much more present.  

Step 3:  Listen with all of your senses without taking notes.  I encourage you to have as many face-to-face meetings as possible.  Especially the really important ones.  If you can’t meet face to face, do a video call so you can see the other person or people and they can see you.  Once the meeting is over, take another deep breath and then write down all your notes, action items, and follow up questions.

By truly listening deeply and actively, you will learn much more and be better equipped to make transformational decisions in both your business and personal life.  And as for the motivational results you will produce for the recipients of your deep, active listening?  Well, this reminds me of a wonderful poem by John Fox, 

“When someone deeply listens to you it is like holding out a dented cup you’ve had since childhood and watching it fill up with cold, fresh water.  When it balances on top of the brim, you are understood.  When it overflows and touches your skin, you are loved.  When someone deeply listens to you the room where you stay starts a new life and the place where you wrote your first poem begins to glow in your mind’s eye.  It is as if gold has been discovered!  When someone deeply listens to you your bare feet are on the earth and a beloved land that seemed distant is now at home within you.”

Imagine how your customer and employee retention rate would skyrocket if they were feeling some of that?!  Good luck practicing those three steps — more holidays are right around the corner!  Questions?  Leave a comment below, hit me up on Twitter @mpveltri, or learn more at .  I’ll be sure to get back to you right away!