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How to Be a Good Listener

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Listening is key to most relationships. We all know how it feels when someone pretends to listen, but does not give us their full attention. Mentoring requires strong listening skills.
A good listener hears not only what’s said, but also what’s left unsaid. 

Here are some tips to become a better listener -

1. Be present

First, put your phone on silent and keep it aside. Face your body towards the other person, and if culturally appropriate, make eye contact. Show you are interested. Check your posture–are you relaxed and open? Give your full attention.

2. Stop talking and just listen

So often we do not give other people the space to talk. We interrupt them, finish their sentences, or talk over them. This shuts the other person down. Be silent. Give non-verbal cues showing you are listening. Allow for pauses so your mentoring partner can think more deeply.

3. Remove distractions

If you are meeting virtually, set your cameras in a way that you can make eye contact. Remove distractions. Avoid distracting behaviors such as doodling, checking your phone and yawning. Offer your undivided attention. 

4. Be non-judgmental

Try to remove your prejudices and judgments from your interaction. Keep an open mind and fully listen. Show empathy. Try to step into your partner’s shoes and understand their perspective. 

5. Pay attention to non-verbal communication

Watch your partner and notice their gestures, expressions and body language. Are you sensing how they are feeling? What are they saying through their body language?

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Up Next

How to Ask Productive Questions

Questioning is a key skill in mentoring.
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2 mins

Questioning is a key skill in mentoring. By understanding how to ask the right questions, you can unlock your mentee’s thinking and generate valuable insights. 

Closed and open-ended questions
Use both closed and open-ended questions in your mentoring conversations.

1. Closed-ended questions: 

Can be answered by a few words and provide information about facts. Use them when you need clarification or a specific answer. They usually begin with “Who,” “Where,” and “When,” and “How much?”.  


  • “Who was part of the conversation?”
  • “Where did you work previously?”
  • “When did you join the company?”
  • “How much was your quota?”

2. Open-ended  questions: 

Open-ended questions cannot be answered with one word, or a simple “Yes” or “No”. Typically, they require more thought and can lead to deeper thinking and insights. Open-ended questions often begin with “What”, “What if”,“How?” and “Why”. 


  •   “What motivates you?”
  • “What accomplishments are you proud of?”
  • “What if you had an unlimited budget for this project, how would you spend it?”
  •   “How will you go about motivating your team?”.

Asking questions can be stressful for some new mentors. Remember, it’s more important to actively listen than to think about what question to ask next. After fully listening, reflecting back and summarizing, the right question will come to you.