Are You Listening?


I was in a conversation with someone the other day. I was trying to explain why a certain procedure worked the way it did and that the procedure wasn't the problem, rather, the person was asking it to do something it was not designed to do.

Active listening in a mentoring relationship is important


After a few minutes of conversation, it became clear to me that neither one of us was clearly listening to the other. Upon reflection, I realized that I generally don't have a problem in communicating... so what was it that made this communication difficult and unsuccessful? I began to realize that we listen differently based upon the person we're communicating with. This would seem obvious as I state it, but it wasn't obvious to me at the time. I expected my communication to proceed as it generally does and was baffled by this experience.


What are some of the ways we listen differently? Here are a few you may want to ponder and see what your reflection reveals:

  • Does your listening differ when speaking to someone of authority? If so, how?
  • Does your listening differ when speaking to someone of a different race or ethnicity? If so, how?
  • Do you listen differently when speaking to someone older or younger than you? If so, how?
  • Do you listen differently when speaking to a relative or family member? If so, how?


What do your answers reveal about your listening styles/skills?  Are there common elements?  Are you a better listener in some interactions versus others? Why? What's the one thing you learned in doing this brief reflection that you'd like to change to be more effective?


We can always improve our listening skills that we often take for granted.  Feedback is valuable so if you've answered the questions above, it might be an even more interesting learning experience to ask for feedback and compare your answers to what your colleague says. You might be surprised. We would love to hear your feedback as well.  Be sure to leave your comments below.


A resource you may want to consider to better understand and improve your listening is:

Listening:  The Forgotten Skill by Madelyn Burley-Allen available at


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Topics: Mentoring Success, Mentors & Mentorees, Mentoring Best Practices