Free Guide On How To Improve Your Active Listening Skills

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This is a complete guide to active listening in your training sessions.

Chapter 1: Listening Skills Needed For Training Settings<

Chapter 2: Examples Of Non-Verbal Listening Skills

Chapter 3: How To Develop Active Listening Skills

Chapter 4: The Pitfalls Of Active Listening Within A Training Session

Chapter 5: How You Can Improve Your Listening Skills

Chapter 6: How To Build On Your Listening Skills

Chapter 7: Monitoring Your Listening Skills

Chapter 8: Action Plan

Let’s dive right in.

Chapter 1: Listening Skills Needed For Training Settings

In this section, we’ll answer the question: “how do I support different individuals within training sessions?”.

While conducting a training session, the trainer needs to be in a position to support a range of different individuals and situations while still achieving the objectives of the training program.

Listening Skills For Training Settings
When we think of training there is a sense of delivery or that something from the trainer is being passed on to the participants.

However, to be an effective trainer there is a need to develop a two-way stream between you and the participants. Mastering active listening will help you make this connection and maximize all aspects of your training.

There are two main types of active listening skills that you will need to understand – verbal and non-verbal.

Verbal Listening Skills

  • Paraphrasing – This involves repeating back to the participant what was said in his/her words or in similar words. For example, ‘Do you find that time management skills assist …’. This encourages the participant to engage in further conversation.
  • Clarifying – A form of checking what was said is understood. For example, ‘What you are saying is that you don’t like time management training and don’t want to attend the course’.
  • Reflecting – Here the trainer captures feelings that they believe the participant is displaying. For
example, ‘It looks as if you really don’t like training at all.’
  • Explaining – Offering an interpretation of information or even events. For example, ‘It may
be that …’.
  • Open Ended Questioning – Asking these questions encourages further communication. For example, ‘What happened next?’. It is important that the questions used require more than yes or no answers. Only use these closed questions when looking for specifics.
  • Linking – The trainer can link sentences to demonstrate his/her interest in what is being said while
at the same time encouraging the
participant to talk further. For example, ‘and, then?’.
  • Summarizing – This is simply capturing what is said into one statement For example, ‘In all the
seems to be three points, one … two …?’. Encouraging – As with all the examples above, active listening skills are all about encouraging your participants to contribute and share with the group. Another way to directly encourage is to thank or recognize a contribution. For example, ‘Great comments on this topic, thank you.’ It is also possible to employ what is known as sub-speech e.g., ‘uh-huh’ ‘mmmn’.
  • Active Silence – It might seem like an interesting linking of words but strategic silences or pauses can indicate to participants that you are actively listening and taking his/her information in. It is a great way of encouraging further comments and detail.

Chapter 2: Examples Of Non-Verbal Listening Skills

Below are some examples of non-verbal listening skills that you can explore within your training sessions.

  • Facial Expression – Listening with our face is an interesting concept in itself. Our face expresses how we feel and our intentions. As a trainer, this can be another way you can communicate that you are listening to participants and encouraging his/her participation.
  • Body Language – As a trainer how you stand, sit, and
    position your body will communicate both your interest levels and how well you are listening. To illustrate, if someone is answering a question then leaning slightly towards them it will show that you are attentive whereas moving away will communicate a restrictive position.
  • Eye-Contact – Quite simply making eye contact communicates that you are open and interested in what is being communicated as well as encouraging them to continue.
  • Personal Space – Ensure that there is a comfortable distance between you and the speaker. If you get too close the person may not only physically
    withdraw but may also withdraw within the conversation.
  • Timing – Ensure that you don’t interrupt the speaker at inappropriate times as it will only indicate that you are not listening and will cause the speaker to withdraw.

Chapter 3: How To Develop Active Listening Skills

Having discussed various verbal and non-verbal listening skills, and introduced the pitfalls of active listening skills, the remainder of this guide will outline essential attributes of successful active listening skills that you should adopt in all your training events.

  • Concentration – Ensure that you are focusing on the words, concepts, themes, and feelings associated with what is being said by the participants. This is not always easy but as you practice this skill you will find that it becomes much easier.
  • Eye Contact – Ensure that you always make good eye contact with whoever is delivering the message.
  • Attention & Receptive Body Language – Clearly demonstrate through both verbal and nonverbal actions that you are paying attention. To be accomplished at displaying attention also requires practice. This may at first mean that your actions are very conscious or deliberate and even strained but in time it will be very natural for you. Everything that you do must demonstrate how receptive you are to your participants.
  • Restating The Message & Questioning/Clarifying – Always ensure that the message is being understood.
  • Empathy – Always try to understand where someone else is coming from and what his/her message is.
  • Objectivity – Just be open and you’ll do fine.
  • Strategic Pauses – They say that silence is golden. Always introduce short silent pauses that will display that you are contemplating what is being said. It also affords you the opportunity to construct your responses or feedback.
  • Not Interrupting – Let the participant have their say and don’t interrupt. Interruptions only stop the flow of communication and can lead the participant to retreat.
  • Listening Not Talking – Sounds obvious but remember that you are listening and not talking. If you do talk there needs to be a good reason for it!

Chapter 4: The Pitfalls Of Active Listening Within A Training Session

Although there are many clear benefits of active listening, considerable care must also be taken to avoid some challenging pitfalls.

  • Repetition Only – Just repeating what the speaker has said can lead to frustration and can cause the participants to withdraw.
  • Over Analyzing – This can overcomplicate what is being said and can make the trainer seem like a ‘know-all’.
  • Over Expansion – By the trainer expanding too much on what was said it can make the speaker feel that they were not heard or that
    they were misheard.
  • Omission – By omitting facts it can make the speaker feel that they were not heard or that they were misheard.
  • Exaggerating – Here the trainer may intensify a feeling too much on what was said it can make the speaker feel that they were not heard or that they were misheard.
  • Rushing – Jumping in or filling the pauses on what was said it can make the speaker feel that they were not heard, that they were misheard or even manipulated.
  • Lagging – Not actively supporting or directing the conversation can make participants feel that the trainer is disinterested.

Chapter 5: How You Can Improve Your Listening Skills

Use the following questions to identify areas for improvement.

Verbal Listening
Do you use the full range of verbal listening skills?
(e.g., summarising, clarifying, reflecting, paraphrasing, interrupting/explaining, open-ended questions, encouraging, following, silence, linking)
Do your interactions improve or distract from the flow of discussions?
Count how many times that you interrupt a speaker? Is each interruption necessary?
Do you finish people’s sentences for them? Why do you do this?
Are you making any of the pitfalls of active listening? Which ones in particular and why?

Non-Verbal Listening
Observe yourself or ask someone to give you feedback on your non-verbal skills?
Are your gestures appropriate?
Do they match your verbal responses?
Are any of your verbal expressions or gestures giving the message ‘stop’ to a speaker?
Is your eye contact appropriate?

List Your Areas For Improvement:

Chapter 6: How To Build On Your Listening Skills

There are three stages to support the development of your active listening skills.

  1. First, a solid awareness/analysis of your current competence.
  2. Second, recognition of the areas that may require some work.
  3. Third, developing and implementing a realistic skills development program.

The following should always be considered when providing or asking for feedback:

  • be specific
  • use examples of techniques
  • always ensure that it is the behavior and not the person that is being assessed
  • Suggest areas and ways of getting improvement
  • Focus on the positive


Chapter 7: Exercises For Developing Active Listening Skills

Ask a friend or colleague to work with you in a group setting.

Focus on the active listening skills listed in this handout. Ask for honest feedback on the quality of your interactions.

Record a discussion program on the radio or television. Note the interactions that you would feel are appropriate. Compare them with your style and identify areas for improvement.

Practice asking the following open-ended questions:

  • “What happened when …?”
  • “Where are you …?”
  • “How did that work out to be?”
  • “Why was that the decision?”
  • “When did you find out that …?”
  • Practice the following clarification process:
  • “Does this mean…?”
  • “Will this help the other situation …?”
  • “Is this what you would recommend?”
  • “Are you suggesting that we do …?”
  • Reflect on the non-verbal messages that you give in your sessions. What should you do differently?

Practice communicating the following using non-verbal gestures:

  • “I am interested in what you are saying”
  • “I am bored with what you are saying now but still want you to tell me something else”
  • “You surprise me with what you’re saying”
  • “I am glad that you are getting involved”
  • “Tell me more”
  • “I am not sure what you are saying to me”

Chapter 8: Monitoring Your Listening Skills

Regularly review your current active listening skills using the scoring criteria provided.

  • List the skills that you need to develop further.
  • List things that you are going to do to develop these skills further.
  • Suggest who and what will help you achieve these skills.
  • List the things that might hinder this development.
  • Apply a realistic timeframe for these skills to be achieved.
  • Set a date when you will evaluate your progress.
  • We have provided an action plan on the next pages that will help put shape on the ongoing development of your skills.

Chapter 9: Active Listening Skills – Action Plan

I believe that I need to improve my knowledge, skills, and abilities in the following areas:

Note: These improvements will represent your goals from the completion of the course.

These improvements will be measurable in the following ways:

To attain these improvements I will need to:

This is how I plan to attain these improvements (e.g, Goal, Action Step, Target Date, Evidence)

The following people and resources will assist me in accomplishing my goals:

The following are constraints that may impact the achievement of my goals:

Here is a list of other factors that I need to consider in achieving my goals:

To achieve my goals will involve:



That’s it for our guide to active listening skills within your training sessions.

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For over 25 years, Catherine has been a leading content creator. She has a Master's and a Bachelor's degree. Founder @oakinnovationtraining. I have a true passion for online education and have spent the last 27 years creating multiple best-selling courses and teaching thousands of delegates.