As human resources professionals and leaders we are programmed to be the solutions providers, the director of actions, the creators of strategies, but sometimes we need to learn to shut up.

We are often taught active listening by rephrasing what is said and repeating it, to offer physical cues of agreement and understanding, but aren’t they just actions to prepare us to speak next? 

So, you have this blend of preparing to talk and to selectively absorb what is being said, both of which are just not effective. 

This day and age of “being present”, wouldn’t it be better to just sit and listen to what is being said?

According to Bernard Ferrari, author of Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill, good listening is the key to developing fresh insights and ideas that fuel success.  Ferrari states that although most people focus on learning how to communicate and how to present their own views more effectively, this approach is misguided and represents missed opportunities.

Ferrari continues by suggesting three behaviors:

  1. The best listeners recognize that they cannot succeed without seeking out information from those around them and let those people know that they have unique input that is valuable. This sets forth a pattern where they may return the consideration and continue to share.
  • Being a good listener includes bringing out thoughts, ideas, and perspectives from others as a tool to brainstorm.  This also incorporates the effective use of questions that are respectful and are contributory, not contrary to the conversation.  Remember, the idea is to create a free flow of ideas.
  • Lastly, is the Seven Covey, long known lesson to “See First to Understand”, meaning introducing empathy into the conversation.  Consider where the individual is coming from.  Remember that our partner is looking at the subject from a different perspective that may offer insight that you may not have.  This is a delicate stage in discussions because if you overpower the conversation by over talking, dominating the exchange or using your dominance, either real or perceived, will result with the disengagement of your speaking partner.
  • An extra behavior is to leave your ego at the door.  If you really want to get the best out of the conversation, remember that this is not the time to show how smart you are or to divert the conversation to a subject you would rather discuss because you are bored.  Stay focused and see the subject through and then move onto the next subject.

Rick Baron is a practicing, but not perfected, Human Resources & Talent Acquisition Business Partner based on the West Coast of Florida.  You can contact him at [email protected] or via