When a person is using active listening, it is best not to respond to demands for decisions and judgments but to simply allow the other person to express himself.

For example:

Security Officer’s Question

“Don’t you think younger security officers should receive promotions before older, less qualified persons?”

Supervisor’s Response

So what you’re saying is that more qualified officers should receive promotions, regardless of their age. Is that correct?”

Security Officer’s Question

“Why doesn’t maintenance ever fix anything that I put on my inspection reports?”

Supervisor’s Response

“You’re pretty frustrated and disgusted about this, aren’t you?”

These responses allow the employee the opportunity to express what is really bothering them. This approach allows the listener (the supervisor) to participate in the problem or solution without assuming all the responsibility for the decision. This is a process of thinking “with people”.

A good active listener does not pass judgment. If a supervisor gives advice, he or she may be seen as trying to change a person’s point of view. Usually, advice is seldom taken anyway.

To be an effective, active listener, a person must try to see the speaker’s point of view. To listen actively one must:

Listen for Total Meaning –

Any message has two components: the message content and the feeling or attitude underlying the content. If a security officer comes to their supervisor and says, “Well, I finally finished directing those damn employees into the parking lot!” What message is the officer trying to convey? What occurs or does not occur if the superior says nothing, or says, “That’s good”. What occurs if the supervisor says, “They were pretty uncooperative with you?” This will allow the security officer to more openly express him or herself.

Respond to Feelings –

Besides listening for the total meaning of the message, a supervisor must respond to the feelings of the speaker. What is the person really trying to tell me? What does it mean to the speaker? How does the speaker view the situation? Additionally, the listener needs to pay careful attention to the tone of the speaker’s voice. Some points may be conveyed loudly and clearly while other points are mumbled. Particular attention should be paid to the non-verbal signs (facial features, body posture, hand movements, etc.), that the speaker is conveying.

By consistently listening to a speaker, the listener conveys the idea that they are really interested in the speaker, as a person. The speaker will often feel that they are truly respected by the listener.