How to Be an Active Listener
January 24, 2022 by Jim Moushon

How to Be an Active Listener

We’ve all heard about the importance of listening, especially when a prospect is speaking. The more the prospect talks, the more you can discover about their situation and what they really need.

However, good listening also involves interaction on your part. It involves playback and questioning. Playback, sometimes called paraphrasing, helps you make sure that you’ve heard the other person accurately and correctly interpreted what they’ve said. Additionally, it verifies that the speaker meant what they said. The speaker hears his or her words played back, and they realize that, yes, they said that, but what they meant to say was………….and they make the correction. It’s critical that you get it right or you may make a proposal based on what they inaccurately said, and it won’t address their real needs.

Paraphrasing shows the other person that you really were listening and that you want to get it right. Playing back or paraphrasing does not necessarily mean you are agreeing with something. It just shows that you’ve accurately heard what was said.

Most people seem to focus on playing back facts such as numbers, names/titles, and dates or deadlines. While these are important, don’t forget to playback any feelings or emotions displayed by the prospect. People’s feelings often drive what they say and how they act. It’s critical to not only pay attention to what they are saying, but how they are saying it.

People talk to each other for five reasons:

  1. To connect or socialize
  2. To vent or share feelings
  3. To share information
  4. To persuade
  5. To entertain

If a prospect displays an emotion during your discussions—positive or negative—acknowledge that emotion. State that you recognize that he or she is excited, happy, frustrated, upset, concerned, etc. Expressing emotions is one of the reasons people communicate, so acknowledge any emotions you see or hear.

A neutral way to acknowledge feelings or emotions is to use a lead-in statement. Some lead-ins for playing back feelings are:

  • “You sound………”
  • “You look…………”
  • “You seem……….”
  • “I can see that…….”
  • “I get the impression……”
  • “I sense………”

An example of a lead-in statement: “I sense some frustration on your part about missed deadlines that are beyond your control.” The prospect can confirm, modify, or correct your impression. By using one of the above lead-ins, you’re building the relationship by demonstrating that you are listening to the prospect as a person, not just to the facts they are giving you.

Notice how different the mood of the conversation would change if you didn’t use one of the above lead-ins. Imagine you led with “You are really frustrated about the missed deadlines!” Instead of building the relationship, they would most likely become defensive, and the conversation would come to a halt, especially if you misread the emotion. The prospect might even become angry and respond indignantly with, “Frustrated? I’m not frustrated, whatever gave you that idea?”

For more information on listening actively and playing back so you build the relationship, please visit Communispond’s website at and explore our courses on Socratic Selling, Sales Presentation Skills, and Persuasive Dialogue Skills.


About the Author

Jim Moushon is a Senior Master Trainer at Communispond. Jim's areas of expertise are in executive coaching, presentation skills, media interviews, persuasive dialogue, interpersonal communication, business writing and sales effectiveness. In addition, he does train-the-trainer for Communispond as well as for many of Communispond's clients.

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