Leaderflip Star Logo

Active Listening – Exercise | Deliberate Practice

Share This Post

From the Post: Active listening vs generative listening – listening between the lines

The assignment is to pick one or two active listening skills and practice them every time you have a conversation with anyone. Write down the skills you are practicing in your journal then record how well you did or didn’t do and keep practicing. For these skills to become habits you need to repeat them over and over again. 

Once you feel comfortable with your two skills, choose two more and practice all four of them. When you feel you have developed some amazing listening skills, go for the big one, generative listening. This is the optimal leadership skill when it comes to encouraging healthy dialogue in a safe space among your staff, peers, leaders, and family. 

Active listening skills

  1. Give your full attention.
  2. Hold your thoughts and comments.
  3. Be aware of nonverbal language.
  4. Ask questions to expand the conversation.
  5. Understand what is being said.
  6. Bonus active listening skill – Be still, and use silence to encourage dialogue.  

Generative listening – the next level

We usually listen to gain information and move on. Sometimes we listen to understand how to influence a situation or we are just waiting to get our thoughts heard as soon as the other person is done talking. 

Generative listening is the ability to become so engaged in listening we often forget what our point was. We clear the mental slate, suspend our biases, judgments, and personal opinions, and truly listen. It’s the art of being curious, the ability to understand something in a completely new or different way. This is the hardest listening skill to develop and maintain because it requires us to put aside our agenda and open ourselves to new possibilities that we never saw from our viewpoint.

Asking questions is critical

Ask questions to expand the conversation.

Part of active listening is asking questions to encourage and support conversations. Try to limit the yes/no response questions and use more open-ended questions to expand the conversation. Here are four types of questions, there are a lot of similarities but each type has its purpose.

The probing question

Conversations can get convoluted when many facts or ideas are presented. Using a probing question can help wade through the noise.

  • What do you mean by__________?
  • What other ways did you try?
  • Can you identify what worked in the past in this situation?
  • What specifically is happening?
  • From your perspective, what are we not seeing?

The clarifying question

This question helps to cut through the noise as well. It helps you to understand what exactly is being said.

  • What I’m hearing you say is _______________, is that right?
  • What specifically is holding you back from______________?
  • Can you tell me more about_________________?
  • What does that look like to you?
  • Is there another way to look at this?
  • Tell me more.

The focus question

Sometimes the rabbit hole can go deep so you need to bring the conversation back to the original intent. 

  • What’s the desired outcome you are looking for?
  • What exactly are you proposing?
  • What else do we need to consider?
  • What benefits would you like to see from____________?

The ‘what else’ question

A critical step in asking questions is to make sure you have covered or uncovered everything. How many times have you been in a conversation and you feel the real issue has not surfaced? This is where you use the bonus skill of silence. Ask the question, then wait… for them to answer. 

  • What else?
  • What did we not cover in our conversation?
  • What else do we need to address?
  • What will you do with the information we talked about?
  • What are your next steps?
  • What do we need to do to move forward? 

Many of these questions are interchangeable and can be used in multiple situations. The point is, to ask questions, then listen with the intent to understand.

The skill of active listening is a life-long practice skill. There will always be a person or a situation that will test your ability to listen waiting around every corner. Be aware of the situations that trigger your emotions and before you speak silence yourself, clear your mind, and ask, “What don’t I know?”

Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. What you have is today and this is the best time to begin anything.

More To Explore


The Rational Leader – Exercise | Deliberate practice

From the Post: The Rational Leader: Cultivating Self-Awareness, Critical Examination, and Determination Start with one of the five areas listed below to practice self-awareness, self-examination,

The 5 Content Pillars:
The Exercises: