I am a bad, BAD listener. How about you?

I am a bad, BAD listener. How about you?

I like to think I am a solid communicator, and it’s true I can write a pithy paragraph, and contrive a sound argument. I can communicate ideas from a stage, or in a one-on-one, as well as most, I suppose.

But communicating is listening too right? In fact, surely ‘understanding’ is the foundation of it all?

So ‘active listening’ is a key business skill. Indeed it’s a highly evolved human competency. And I lack it. Well often I do, anyway.

I know what I do wrong, but I seem unable to make big improvements. I see the same fault in others, and it irritates me no end.

So 2016 is my year to become a better listener.


• Listen to understand, not to formulate an answer.
• Stop interrupting. (I am disgracefully guilty of this)
• To be ‘more present’. Not to allow my mind to wander. To focus and concentrate. On the other person.
• Stop assuming I know what someone is going to say.
• To listen to ‘the whole person’. In other words, be attuned to body language, tone and other non-verbal signals, so I really can understand.
• Approach a conversation with a more open mind, with more empathy.
• To be ‘slower to understand’. Not to jump in with a solution too fast. To think more before I talk.
• To ask more and smarter questions, so I really do understand.
• Not to be defensive when I sense criticism or a different point of view.

I know I will fail at much of this. But I will try. And I will get better. Because it’s important. At work. In personal relationships. With your kids.

I need to worry far less about ‘being right’, and far more about ‘being right about what the other person thinks and feels’.

I need to remind myself every morning (and you might consider doing the same) that nothing I say today is going to teach me anything. Only by listening will I learn anything new.

I have mentioned elsewhere how the best recruiter I ever knew was a great listener. All the people I really respect and trust and go to for insights, are great listeners.

When someone really listens to you, you feel respected. Validated.

I must do better.

How about you?


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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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21 Responses to I am a bad, BAD listener. How about you?

  1. Alan Allebone March 1, 2016 at 9:12 am #

    Guilty as charged Greg!

    Sometimes I listen to what I want to hear and ignore the rest!
    If i pick up an assignment I get excited and do not listen to the full instructions and the needs of the client. Why? because i think I know it all.
    I rush the process and therefore sometimes forget what the client has asked or said.
    Listen to what the client has to say if offering suggestions etc etc.
    never too old to learn

    Thank you

    See you Thursday Greg


  2. Lachlan McNeill March 1, 2016 at 11:01 am #

    That touched a nerve.
    I record my interviews and there is nothing more painful than hearing yourself interrupt, offer unwanted advice and drivel on when you play things back.
    It’s a great way to learn though.

  3. Chris Heswall March 1, 2016 at 11:11 am #

    They say we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason! I’m yet to quite work out why but happy to acknowledge the point !

  4. mark woolford March 1, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    That is a great article Greg!

    I think I’ve kidded myself I am a good listener but I can associate with everyone of your points. I think I need to print this out and stick it to my monitor so I have a constant reminder!


  5. Susan March 1, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    Great article Greg! Such a basic principal in our trade, however to master and apply proves to be challenging at times.

  6. Cindy March 1, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

    i have always been a great listener. I really think this is the way to be. It is always important to not just hear but to actually listen. It is the best way to learn new things from others and to make people feel good.

  7. Sharon Vandermeer March 1, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

    Its an area that I also need to work on every day! A great reminder greg!

  8. Jim Foster March 1, 2016 at 7:56 pm #


    You hit the nail square on the head. I often catch myself wandering aimlessly while someone is telling me all their detailed history in an interview.

    And as most of the time we are speaking to people on the phone it’s that much more difficult to focus on what the other person is saying.

    That’s the professional side but the worst of it is actually watching an argument develop and you know it’s just neither side is listening they are not interested in the other person or what they have to say.

    I see that on myself. But I see it in politicians, reporters and so many areas of public debate.

    The truth is its a total lack of respect.


  9. Fionntan Gamble March 1, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

    Lessons to be learned for everyone here. Nicely put Greg. I also think that we can do more to actively listen and explore ideas from others before either shooting them down or giving immediate negative analysis about why a proposal ‘would not’ work instead of acknowledging that person’s input and exploring why the idea ‘might’ work or how it could be made to work.

  10. Alan Whitford March 1, 2016 at 10:06 pm #

    Thanks Greg

    Nail on the head, as usual. It was as if you were standing beside me during every conversation – when we think we are actually listening.

  11. Denise Fanelli March 2, 2016 at 1:08 am #

    That is why we have two ears and one mouth. We need to listen twice as much as we talk.

  12. Dorothy Dalton March 3, 2016 at 1:30 am #

    Greg a good manifesto. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Babs Khanduja March 3, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    Great post Greg I hear you! (Apologies poor humour).

    Listening skills one of the most key important skills in not just our industry recruitment but in every walk of life & yet one that most (including myself) often overlook & fail to think about!

    My old mentor when I first started out in recruitment circa 12 years ago used to constantly tell me: “You’ve got 2 ears and one mouth, use them in that order”!

    Great advice that has stuck with me ever since & something I constantly preach to my consultants. It also acts as a reminder when I catch myself committing any of the offences you so accurately state above!

    Keep up the good work.

    Warm Regards


  14. Jeremy Symes March 4, 2016 at 5:52 am #

    G’day Greg, another one of your articles whose theme has stuck with me afterwards.

    Reading this article on the train (quiet carriage – no good for practising listening) this morning and thought it might be useful to followers of this post.


  15. Steve March 4, 2016 at 10:42 am #

    Good article and good on you for sharing.

    Now listen up 🙂

    Only thing I would point out is bit about “but I will try”.

    When you say this you are only half committing and will inevitably fail.

    As the great Yoda once said “Do or do not. There is NO Try”

    • Greg Savage March 4, 2016 at 10:51 am #

      well the great Yoda can basically get nicked because I will decide how hard I “try” or not ..:)

  16. Richard Rowe March 15, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    Hi Greg

    It would be good to hear about how you going to practically achieve each of the items in a future article as I know from experience it’s touch to implement and takes constant focus.

    I can recommend headspace (an app) for helping preventing your mind from wandering as at the very least it’s helped me notice it happening so that I can stop and start listening properly.

  17. Katherine Taylor March 21, 2016 at 5:13 pm #

    Hi Greg

    I am at best an ok listener but I am getting better! I work with several amazing people who are incredible listeners and if I give them the chance have thoughtful and insightful things to say. I am reading Quiet right now by Susan Cain. This book has helped me listen better – even to myself!


  18. Foluke March 31, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. I stumbled across this page via Twitter. May I quote your comment about not “‘being right’, and far more about ‘being right about what the other person thinks and feels’.”, or is it a famous saying I was ignorant of?

    • Greg Savage March 31, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

      Happy for you to quote it. Those are my own words, regards Greg

  19. Dara Lin April 14, 2016 at 5:23 pm #

    I think this article is for me because it did a nice hit with me. To answer the question, I am not a good listener. I think I am good listener but I also know that I am not. I write but never listens, if I listen I don’t think it is right. Thanks for these tips. These will surely help me improve my listening skills to have a better understanding ability. Greg. Can I use your list to elevate my listening skills?

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