Emotional Intelligence and Listening

  • “He’s such a terrible listener.”
  • “When my boss’s cell phone rings—it barks like a dog and he answers it. He always puts me on hold.”
  • “I can hear the clicking of keys on the computer (my boss multi-tasking) when I am talking to him. It’s so frustrating.”
  • “It doesn’t matter what we are talking about, when my boss’s phone rings, she answers it. I am left there sometimes in mid-sentence.”

All of the statements above were said in the last month during manager coaching sessions. Since leaders set the mood and tone with which messages are received, these statements are particularly strong. In fact, each of these situations lead to bad feelings of frustration, disappointment, anger, sadness, disgust or hurt with the subordinate.

Effective listening involves not only tuning in to others, but tuning into ourselves. An emotionally intelligent leader understands that listening skills are critical to building strong interpersonal relationships within the organization. In the most basic sense when listening does not occur, we lose the opportunity to improve our professional and personal relationships. Listening is a powerful force in leading and managing others. Consider the cascading effects of good listening:

  • Listening is a way of acknowledging someone. It often increases that individual’s self-esteem.
  • Studies show that the speaker usually appreciates the person doing the listening and cooperates more fully with him/her. This action shows that the talker has worth, dignity and something to offer.
  • Listening reduces tension and stress for the person delivering the message.
  • Listening encourages the speaker to feel more self-confident, accepted and give more information. Empathetic listening encourages honesty, understanding and a feeling of security.
  • Listening builds trust, teamwork and a sense of belonging. People are more likely to suggest ideas and share thoughts when they think others will hear what they area saying.

Listening to others gives us information needed to make the most of our communication. Effective listeners are able to find the most valid information in what they hear, making them the most powerful people. To build an emotionally intelligent environment leaders must improve and increase their levels of listening.


As you know, growth begins with awareness. By paying attention to your listening style, you can begin the process of changing how you listen. The average listening efficiency is about 25% –so if you are like most people, you probably need some work.

In Listening—The Forgotten Skill, the author Madelyn Burley-Allen suggests the following techniques for improving your listening:

  • Search for something you can use in what is being said—the What’s In It For Me Technique– Find common areas of interest and opinions. Note: If you adopt a positive attitude toward the subject and talker, you will usually find something that will broaden your knowledge.
  • Resist external and internal distractions. Concentrate on concentrating.
  • Take notes. This keeps you on track and focused.
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Hold your rebuttals and watch for hot buttons.
  • Ask questions to clarify understanding.
  • Restate what you thought was said.
  • Ask yourself—What is this person saying non-verbally?
  • Summarize or ask the speaker to do so.

Your leading and managing skills depend on strong interpersonal relationships. 40% or more of your time is spent listening on the job—to clients, your boss, your peers and subordinates. Mastering listening skills is a step toward being a dynamic, emotionally intelligent leader that knows how to connect with others.

“We forget that our behavior may be holding us back. All other things being equal, your people skills (or lack thereof) become more pronounced the higher up you go. In fact, even when all other things are not equal, your people skills often make the difference in how high you go.”

Fast Company magazine,
Marshall Goldsmith, Author & Coach