Charles Good on Communication

Nearly every leader who wants to become a better communicator assumes it means how can they talk with more clarity and impact. They also tend to focus on body language, removing filler language and minimizing clarifiers, such as ‘I know that I am not an expert, but can I give you some advice.” While all of this makes sense in developing if they want to become a better communicator, it does ignore the most overlooked element of excellent communication – becoming a better listener. Since over half of our communication is listening, it would make sense that perhaps the easiest way to improve your communication is to listen better. I wish it were that easy; for many leaders, listening has become a lost art that is no longer easy, but remember, the best communicators are the best listeners.


How would someone know you are a good listener? Remember, unless the other person acknowledges you are listening to them, you don’t get credit for listening even if you have listened to them.

When you get a response from the other person, such as, “You are not listening to what I am saying,” even though you are. A good question to ask them is, “What would indicate to you that I am listening?” Clarifying how they feel heard and listened to will go a long way toward becoming active listeners.


In his book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman provides an excellent process for active listening, especially when dealing with difficult conversations or people.


As you are listening to someone, make good eye contact and verbally acknowledge that you are listening by giving affirming verbal cues while nodding your head.


Blending happens through body language and facial expressions. For example, if the other person moves closer, you move closer; if they use a higher pitch or speed while talking, you do the same. Obviously, you don’t want to mirror everything they do. But you want to do a certain amount since that gives the other person the impression you hear and understand what they are saying and builds a greater connection.


Repeating some of the words they are saying is a great way to demonstrate listening. Don’t translate or rephrase with other words since the other person has chosen to express their thoughts using those words. You don’t need to repeat everything, and the amount you repeat is partly dependent on the situation and person.

Ask clarifying questions if you become confused while listening to a point or idea. Becoming curious about the other person’s words is a great way to stay engaged.


It is always a good practice to summarize what the other person stated before responding. ‘So if I heard you correctly, this is the problem; this is who is involved…’ Doing this serves two purposes: if you missed anything, then this will give the other person the opportunity to fill in the details. It also demonstrates that you made an effortful attempt to understand fully.

The last thing you should do is make sure you get confirmation. Ask the person, “Do you feel understood? Is there anything else?”

It is also helpful to demonstrate empathetic listening, where you try to understand someone else’s point of view as they speak. Instead of only focusing on their message, try to understand and connect with their feelings and imagine what it would feel like to be in their position.

Without actively listening to the other person, it is easy to get something wrong, make wrong assumptions, and for the other person to feel unheard or misunderstood. The importance of listening can’t be overstated, and it’s what separates the super-communicators from the average ones because, remember, the best communicators are the best listeners.

To learn more about this the best communicators are the best listeners. listen to my podcast conversation with Dr. Rick Brinkman on Secrets of Dealing with Difficult People. You can also look at some of our previous blogs on Communicating with Impact, Unlocking the Power of Language to Influence Others, or Six Common Listening Mistakes by Dr. Rick Brandon.


Charles Good is the president of The Institute for Management Studies, which provides transformational learning experiences that drive behavioral change and develop exceptional leaders. Charles is an innovative and resourceful leader who specializes in bringing people together to develop creative organizational and talent strategies that enable business results. His areas of expertise include assessing organizational skill gaps and leading the design, creation and delivery of high impact, innovative learning solutions that achieve business goals.

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