Be a Trampoline, Not a Backboard: Strategies of an Effective Listener

Every now and then an article comes across my desk that’s thought provoking enough that I want to share it with you. This is one of those weeks.

This morning my friend, Nancy, sent me an article from the July issue of the Harvard Business Review titled, “What Great Listeners Actually Do”.

If you’ve got time (it’s quite short) I recommend giving it a thorough read.

If you want the Wow Notes version (akin to the Cliff Notes versions of your misspent youth…) the biggest takeaway for me was that while many people believe good listening entails being, essentially, a human backboard: demonstrating you heard what was said and can repeat it, verbatim—truly effective listening is more about being a trampoline: bouncing the person’s idea back to them with a little “give” in it. In fact, they identify “Level 6” listening this way:

Level 6: The listener asks questions that clarify assumptions the other person holds and helps the other person to see the issue in a new light.  This could include the listener injecting some thoughts and ideas about the topic that could be useful to the other person.  However, good listeners never highjack the conversation so that they or their issues become the subject of the discussion.

As noted, if you’ve got the time, give it a read. After you do, let me know how your listening has changed.

Frances Cole Jones