Listening Skills : "What Great Listeners Actually Do"

Hello colleagues,

Are you a good listener? A great listener? Do you know what it means to be very successful in "listening" to students? Do you teach your students how to be better listeners? Do you practice great listening skills? Do they? Do you self-assess your own listening skills? Do you assess your students' listening skills? Do you ask them to assess yours?

Because listening and speaking (except in English language classes for immigrants) are not tested in a field driven by standardized tests, where program funding very often depends on students' performance on those written tests, one of the most important skills according to recent assessments by employers -- listening -- is usually not taught.; when it is taught, students are often not taught to be great listeners.Teachers who are interested in their students' success on the job and in career pathways may want to teach good or great listening skills directly -- and indirectly through demonstrating good or great listening themselves, Here's a link to a recent Harvard Business Review article about a study of listening skills. Before you read it, write down what you think are the top few listening skills. Don't read further. Just write down what you think. Then continue reading this post, and then the article.

Did you write:

  • Not talking when others are speaking,
  • Letting others know you’re listening through facial expressions and verbal sounds (“Mmm-hmm”), and
  • Being able to repeat what others have said, practically word-for-word ?

If so, you may be surprised to learn that these are not the skills of GREAT listeners, only of average listeners.

Here's the link to to the "What Great Listeners Actually Do" article  in the Harvard Business Review.

After you read the article, please reply here to let us know what you thought were the top few listening skills, and also what your takeaways are from reading this article. Do you agree with the study findings? Do you employ some or all of these skills yourself when you teach? In other parts of your life? Do you teach these skills? If not, will you now? If so, what approach will you use? Would you share this article with your students?

David J. Rosen



My first thought when I read the title “what great listeners actually do” was that they shut their mouths and opened their minds. After reading the article, my takeaway was that it’s important to listen carefully enough to be able to ask appropriate questions, which in my mind means something deeper than “tell me more”. The skill of being able to ask questions reminded me of something I learned in the Dale Carnegie course. When having a conversation, especially with someone you have just met, get them talking about themselves. In order to do this, you have to be listening well enough to ask questions that will make the person feel comfortable and willing to keep talking. Overall, I think the article says to do what I hope we all strive to do: put the other person first.

The article open my understanding of a true listening skills that, definitely, I will add to my practice of listening. I used to practice the "Shut up my mind" and do my 3 NOTS: Do  Not criticize, in my mind,  in whatever the student is saying; Do Not  make judgments or analyze, in my mind,  while  he/she is talking ; and Do Not advise,  but share my thoughts, if it  is possible, based on my own experience.