Listening has always been considered a critical determining factor in successful communications. However, in this post, I’d like to introduce to you 7 listening techniques to increase professional success.

Listening Is Not Easy!

According to iPEC Coaching, listening can be a challenge because:

  • We have less training and practice in listening than the other forms of communication. Listening as a mode of communication is used 40% of the time yet our formal training is very minimal, if any. By comparison, writing, which is used 9% of the time, is where we’ve all had at least 12 years of formal training (grades 1 – 12).
  • We can take in information faster than it can be spoken. The average person’s rate of listening is 400-500 words per minute. The average person’s rate of speech is 110 – 160 words per minute. So when we are listening, our minds can wander with its excess capacity. As a result, we can get distracted or lose focus.


Four Levels of Listening

Dr. Ben Palmer and Richard Harmer from Genos International break listening down into four levels:

4 levels of listening

They go on to give examples of each level in their article here.

7 Listening Techniques to Increase Your Professional Success

Now, how can we use effective listening techniques in our professional lives? Here is a list of 7 vital listening techniques that can improve your communication with others and boost your professional success:

  1. Acknowledging: This is actually paraphrasing what the speaker has said without parroting back their exact words. Try using phrases such as:
  • What I’m hearing is that ….
  • What you’re saying is that ….
  • Let me see if I get this …..


  1. Validating: This letting the speaker know they have every right to feel the way they do. This takes the pressure of being judged off of their shoulders. Try using phrases such as:
  • It’s no wonder you feel that way ….
  • It makes perfect sense to feel that way ….
  • It’s perfectly normal to be ……


  1. Asking open-ended questions: This is asking questions that seek clarification, are probing and solution oriented. Ask questions such as:
  • How do you mean?
  • What do you think the main challenge is?
  • Why is that important to you?


  1. Pausing: Brian Tracy says this helps you avoid interrupting the speaker’s flow of words and also helps you look more thoughtful. It also shows the listener you don’t want to jump in with your point of view.


  1. Focusing and Guiding: This is trying to help the speaker bring back their thoughts to the main issue at hand and avoid being scattered and all over the place. Use phrases such as:
  • What specifically did you want to tell me about this?
  • What’s important here for me to know?


  1. Clarifying: This is making sure that we understand what the speaker is saying and actually THEY understand what they’re trying to say. Use questions like:
  • What do you mean by imbalance?
  • What does it mean when you say ….?


  1. Being intuitive: This is listening to the message BEHIND the words. It’s actually listening to what is not being said as well as what’s being said. Example:

-I’m worried that my kids use bad language in their day-to-day conversations.

-It sounds like you’re worried and challenged about how to help your kids develop a more respectful and effective way of communication.


I’d like to know! Which of these 7 techniques do you use regularly? And which ones should you add to your toolkit?


Shahab AnariDr. Shahab Anari is a Personal Branding Strategist, professional coach, and co-author with Brian Tracy of the best-seller ‘Ignite Your Life’. He has worked with more than 30,000 people on the topics of personal and professional success. He empowers professionals to achieve more success through more clarity, visibility, credibility, and authenticity. Download his FREE Personal Branding Guide at