Become an Effective Problem Solver: Learn to Listen Better

Personal Branding

The art of being a good listener can make you more likable and effective in the workplace. Too often people think that leadership and confidence are tied to directing conversations and taking command. Research on effective leaders shows the opposite is true. Great leaders are empathetic towards others and display finesse in harnessing others’ strengths. Knowing when to voice your views and when to hold back is an art and it requires the listener to have empathy.

Good Listening is tied to good problem solving

When you allow others to talk, you could begin to appreciate new ways of thinking. Considering different points of view could help you and your team think more broadly and critically about things to come up with better, more innovative solutions. If you want to become more effective in tackling problems at work, it pays to listen with more empathy.

Let go of the need to constantly express yourself

Research shows that active listening combined with empathy or trying to understand the others’ perspective is the most effective form of listening. If you’re always worrying about what you’ll say next in defense or rebuttal or you’re talking to much and forget what the other person said, it may hurt your  ability to interpret issues and create consensus with others. Active listeners don’t just hear words, they seek to understand what the other is saying so they can be helpful.

7 Ways to become a great listener


  • text or answer e-mails or phone calls when you’re in conversation
  • avoid fidgeting or scanning the room


  • engage others rather than endlessly debate
  • set aside time that’s exclusively for that person or group
  • asking astute questions
  • try to understand from their angle
  • put your own biases aside while listening

Play back what the other person said

Those who are the most effective at listening show others that they’re processing and remembering what the  other person has said. This shows respect and builds a connection with the speaker. You could summarize points  and reiterate the major themes and key messages from the conversation to show you’ve listened with interest. Sample phrases might include: “Here are a couple of key points you brought up in our meeting, here’s what you agreed with and disagreed with  and here’s what I suggest we do in moving forward to tackle this issue”. Then ask the person what she thinks?

The best ideas come from diverse opinions

Have you ever noticed that the same few people are consistently the most dominant speakers in your team? They tend to think their ideas are the most integral to the group’s success. The problem is that dominant people can discourage other voices from being heard. This leads to a “group think” which limits new and creative ideas from surfacing.

Take the spotlight off yourself

The more you get used to taking the spotlight off of yourself, slowing yourself down and listening to others, the easier it gets to stay quiet. In fact, you might find it  liberating not having to take charge all the time. Sometimes it could be the introvert in the room who has the best idea but is reluctant to talk. Take pleasure in giving space for this person to speak. Sit back, observe the quieter people, mimic their stillness and allow your mind to rest.

Wait till 3 Other People Talk Before Talking

Next time you’re in a meeting try staying silent until at least three other people share their ideas. The most creativity comes from a diverse group who is able to bring up opposing, different points of views and this can only take place when the most naturally talkative people allow others to express themselves. With practice you’ll not only become a better listener but you’ll probably become a lot more likable. And when your likable people might listen to you more when you have something you really need to share.