Mindfulness, Self Improvement

Confident Speaking and Active Listening

Today, it’s not uncommon to have entire lengthy conversations via text message. And instead of asking a stranger for directions we simply plug the address into our phone, and rather than discussing recommendations with movie store staff (rest in peace, Blockbuster), we choose what’s trending on Netflix without having to leave the couch.

Technology is constantly reducing the need for face-to-face interaction. However, this doesn’t make speaking and listening any less important. The ability to effectively communicate is as crucial to success for world leaders debating at UN summits as it is for talking to your boss about a raise.

Confident Speaking


In his TED Talk “How to Speak so People Want to Listen,” Julian Treasure discusses the do’s and don’t’s of speaking. In general, people don’t want to listen if you speak with these qualities (The 7 Deadly Sins of Speaking):
  • Gossip
  • Judging
  • Negativity
  • Complaining
  • Excuses
  • Lying
  • Dogmatism

And instead, the way you should speak should reflect these qualities (HAIL acronym):

  • Honesty
  • Authenticity (“standing in your own truth” as he puts it)
  • Integrity
  • Love (not romantic love, but wishing someone well)

And finally Julian says that it’s not only what you say, but how you say it:

  1. Speak from your chest (we vote more for politicians with deeper voices; think President Obama) and we listen more to those with richer voices.
  2. Speak with ‘prosidy’ – being opposite of monotony – by avoiding speaking in one single tone and pace.
  3. Speak slowly, surely and confidently. For many this is not an easy skill and it’s one that many successful people work hard all their lives to possess.

Deep and Active Listening


Mindful.com says: “Just as we now understand the importance of regular exercise for good health, we need to exercise and strengthen our ability as listeners.”

The website also introduced to me two awesome sounding terms: ‘Deep Listening’ and ‘Active Listening.’ Without further explanation you can roughly imagine what they mean, but here’s how they describe it:

1. Deep Listening: “listening from a deep, receptive, and caring place in oneself. [It] is generous, empathic, supportive, accurate, and trusting.”

This means that simply to be kind and generous to others we just need to be good listeners. That should be so easy, but we’re apparently not that great at it: on average we only remember 25 to 50 percent of what we hear. It sounds to me like deep listening is the ultimate end goal, but to get there we can practice the more practical sounding ‘active listening.’

2. Active Listening:

We all know that it doesn’t feel great when you’re speaking to someone and they look down at their phone, check their watch or turn their head as others enter the room. Or even if they’re looking at you, it’s obvious there lost in thought in their head. In order to avoid doing this to others, here are some general guidelines on how to actively listen:

  • Pay attention to the person very carefully.
  • Listen not just to the words but try to understand their overall message.
  • Stay focused. Repeat their sentences in your head if necessary
  • Don’t look at your watch, at other people entering the room, or over their head.
  • Don’t get lost forming your next statement or argument for when they stop talking.
  • Face your body towards them, as body language tells the person where your focus is.
  • Show acknowledgement that you’re listening. This can be nodding, uh-huh’s,  repeating statements they’ve said, and asking follow up questions.
  • Don’t allow your personal opinions or beliefs to filter what they’re saying. Simply listen.

And finally, I can’t put it any better than the Mindful.com article which says:  “Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You’re gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him down.”

For most of us, it’s a generally scary thing to verbally share your thoughts and opinions to others. That’s why there are seldom few nicer things you can do for someone than being genuinely engaged, interested and unbiased in what they’re saying.


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