Cheryl A. Moore, PsyD

CEO, Prestige Countertops & Services

Are You Listening?In the July 2021 edition of the Slippery Rock Gazette, I submitted an article about the communication process and the barriers to communication that can impede this process. The communication barriers are related to thought processes wherein we either consciously or unconsciously filter out information or let our emotions have a voice in the way we communicate. In this article, I would like to present some thoughts on another important aspect of the communication process and a way to reduce some communication barriers through active listening.

In his book, A Way of Being*, Carl Rogers described active listening as “creative, active, sensitive, accurate, empathic, nonjudgmental listening.” How often do you find yourself listening to another individual only to realize you didn’t really hear anything the other person said? You appeared to be listening, and you thought you were listening, but in reality you may have been thinking about what you were going to do after work, or what you were going to do on the weekend, or you were preparing your response to the person when he or she finished what they were saying. If we are listening to respond we are preparing a response based on what we have decided the speaker is going to say next, which quite often is not actually the case.

One of the aspects of being an effective leader is being an active listener. Active listening allows the leader to verify the conversation, clarify the senders message and encourage two-way communication among others in the organization. An active listener is listening intently to the speaker without making premature judgements or interrupting the speaker. The listener should be listening with the goal of empathizing with the speaker. One component of active listening is a form of paraphrasing where the listener feeds back to the speaker his or her understanding of what the speaker just said. The listener would want to limit this to key points to minimize the annoyance factor of having someone repeat back everything that was said. Rather than getting defensive or acting negatively to something the speaker said, the leader should get clarification first. Ask the speaker to clarify his or her meaning and thought process.

“The men and women in the Armed Forces –that’s what I always think about and what I teach my kids about. We’re getting ready to sit down at the table and have Thanksgiving, and there’s people that are not with their families.”  — Guy FieriThe guidelines to active listening would include listening for total meaning, responding to feelings, and noting all cues. Most messages have two components: the meaning of the message and the feeling or attitude underlying the content of the message. Both of these components are important in deciphering the message. The same words can be presented to a person from two separate people and yet be deciphered in a different way if the underlying feelings or attitudes are different. There is a 7 percent rule that suggests that 7 percent of meaning is the spoken word, 38 percent is from the tone of voice used, and 55 percent is from the body language the speaker uses. Hesitations while speaking and inflections in the voice are also key indicators that should be listened for during active listening.

As organizational leaders we know how important and beneficial good communication within the organization can be. Good communication not only helps build relationships and solve conflict, but also means fewer errors and less wasted time. To practice active listening, make it a point to face the speaker and maintain eye contact, be present in the conversation, keep an open mind and reserve judgement until you have all the facts, don’t impose your solutions too quickly, ask clarifying questions, and pay attention to what isn’t being said through the speaker’s non- verbal cues. Barriers to communication can make it difficult to decode a message in the way the speaker intends, but individuals who engage in active listening tend to be better at receiving and deciphering the messages as intended.

*Rogers, C. R. (1980). A Way of Being. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Cheryl is the CEO of Prestige Countertops & Services, Inc. Contact her at
cmoore2@mercyhurst.edufor additional resources in EQ studies.