Active listening

Jun 20, 2017The Ripple Effect Blog4 comments

When facilitating it is important to listen.  Listen to what the person or the team says is troubling them and then hear if they articulate how they would like things to change and what they are going to do to change their outcomes.

The art of listening is linked to knowing what to help them with.  The art of facilitating is linked to being able to point out what people have said – therein lies the basic commitment needed for them to change.

A few challenges exist in the listening arena:

Challenge no 1.

What people say is not always an accurate reflection of the reality.  The tendency here is that people tend to focus on the negative and paint the negative as the whole.

Challenge no 2.

While the tendency to blame is still present, what people believe they are saying and what they are actually saying are polar opposites.  Leaders say meetings are a waste of time – what they are actually saying is that they are incapable of running an effective meeting.

Challenge no 3.

People speak a lot while very few listen.  The worst is when the disconnect between speaking and hearing happens in the same person.  It happens a lot where people don’t hear themselves.

Challenge no 4.

When facilitating a team intervention, people only seem to listen when the conversation pertains to their area of responsibility.  They don’t hear the interconnectedness of their roles.  How does what is being said on the other side of the table impact my role and / or what is my part going to be in addressing it?

Challenge no 5.

Hearing retention is limited to one thing – either the last thing that was said or the thing that pushed a particular button leading to hearing ending at that point.

Challenge no 6.

Conversations happen in an overall environment of frustration, stress and even conflict.  What is said and how it is said under these circumstances comes out as disgruntled attacks on others.  When listeners are frustrated, stressed etc. they too hear things differently – mostly as attacks.  When they attack back, no hearing has taken place.

Challenge no 7.

When the listener agrees with a point, the communicator hears a firm commitment from the listener to now address the point.  Nodding in agreement does not equal a commitment for action.

Challenge no 8.

The perception exists that nothing constructive has ever come from a conversation or a meeting, so before people even come together, their ears are closed to hearing.

Challenge no 9.

The absence of questions and discussions leads to the belief that everyone heard and is on the same page.  When last did you play “Broken Telephone”?

Challenge no 10.

The listeners are “elsewhere”.  Thinking about dinner plans, the likelihood of afternoon traffic congestion, their emails piling up etc.

Challenge no 11.

The message comes out wrong through a lack of preparation.  Winging intricate discussions will lead to every one of the above.

Challenge no 12.

A lack of the fundamental elements of tolerance, respect, trust, empathy and patience.  When these traits are lacking in a team nobody hears anything or acknowledges anything that was said.

Challenge no 13.

People only hear what was said and not what was not said.  As an example, when I’m listening to a person articulating their plans, do I only comment on the points they raised or can I also raise some important things for them to consider that were not listed.

Let’s stop at 13 – unlucky 13.  You could blame bad luck for not getting the results you were hoping for but it has nothing to do with bad luck. It has to do with, amongst others, a lack of an important skill – the art of listening. Active listening.

Can it be taught?

Now listen up everybody … The answer is YES.

What did you hear?

No?   Not easily?   Not your team members?

Whatever you heard is different to what I saidit can be taught!


The Ripple Effect touches on effective communication in all of our programmes – both the sending and the receiving.


By Louis Gerke

Development Facilitator – The Ripple Effect

If this post interests you please feel free to share it:


By Louis Gerke

Facilitator |  Coach | Trainer | Speaker

If this post interests you please feel free to share it:


  1. Lindsay

    A very enlightening article on Active Listening. It seems to me that all meetings should commence with these pearls of wisdom which would I believe create a very desirable outcome.

    • Louis Gerke

      Hi Lindsay, since this blog we have posted a number more and we hope you are still finding them as enlightening as the one on Active Listening.

  2. Vincent Cook

    Where is active listening taught?

    • admin

      Hello Vincent. Active Listening is one of the topics covered in our Leadership Development Programme – Wired to Influence. Our next Wired to Influence programme will commence on the 29th of August in Johannesburg. Programmes are also run in other centres so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like any more information.