Communication is a key workplace skill which involves both speaking and listening.  Read on to see these active listening activities that will help you improve your ability to listen and become an A+ communicator.Some of the most valuable employees in an organisation and the most successful workplace teams are those that communicate well. Communication is important for collaboration, giving and receiving instructions, conflict resolution and team building but workplace communication can suffer when individuals don’t feel heard.

Active listening: three levels of listening

In coaching, we talk about there being 3 levels of listening. Level 3 is where you want to aim for:

Level 1: You are only paying partial attention to what is being said. You are also thinking about other things such as what you are going to say next, how much you agree with the speaker or something totally different such as what you are going to cook for dinner later.

Level 2: You show that you are paying attention to everything that is said by giving eye contact, head nodding and/or verbal acknowledgments such as “ok”, “I see” etc.

Level 3: You demonstrate a complete understanding of what the other person is trying to get across by paying full attention to body language and non-verbal messages, as well as what the other person is saying. This is the level you want to achieve to be a good listener.

Active listening activities to try in the workplace (and at home):

• Mirroring

o People who are naturally in-tune with each other will often mirror each other’s body language without thinking. It is a key tool that coaches use to build empathy and trust with their clients.

o It is simple: mirror the other person’s body language and use some of their language when speaking.

o For example, if they have their legs crossed and one arm on the table, try and do the same without making it obvious. If they use a particular word, then use that word in your response rather than an alternative word that you would normally choose.

• The Four R’s of Effective Listening:

o Respect: Respect the other person’s right to have different opinions to yours and do not judge.

o Real Time: Be in the moment and listen actively to what is being said. Stop yourself from forming questions or thinking about what you will say next.

o Relate: Demonstrate your understanding of what is being said by using phrases such as: “I hear what you are saying”, “I understand” or “That must have been really difficult for you”. Try to mirror their body language (see above) and use some of their words in your response: this helps build empathy and trust.

o Reflect: Depending on the discussion topic, you may need to gain clarification if there has been a lot of information. This builds rapport because the other person knows that you are interested and can gauge if you have fully understood. Do this by summarising what the person has said, using their language. For example: “So you completed the task on time but you are feeling anxious because they still haven’t contacted you about it?”

Our Feel Great @ Work e-learning course includes a variety of coaching activities for you and your staff to try, aimed at ensuring everyone is happy at work and achieving their best.


Jones, G. & Gorell, R. (2015) 50 Top Tools for Coaching: A Complete Toolkit for Developing and Empowering People