Your active listening skills

By Jerry Bellune, Writing Coach

The best acting advice I ever heard was to really listen to the actor talking to you instead of waiting to deliver your lines. Your attention will show in your eyes.

Career coach Jennifer Herrity advises that active listening  helps you  focus.

It also ensures speakers that you heard them. 

Instead of thinking about what you might say when the speaker is done, an active listener carefully considers the speaker’s words and commits the information to memory.

Herrity says that when you show you listen to what others have to say, they will want to trust you. When they know they can speak freely to you without interruption, judgment or interjections, they’ll be more likely to confide in you.

You might practice verbal listening skills by:

• Paraphrasing or summarizing your speakers’ main points, giving them an opportunity to clarify or expand their message.

• Ask open-ended – not “yes” or “no” – questions that show you’ve gathered what they said and guide them into sharing additional information. 

• Nod your head and use short comments to show speakers you understand what they’re saying without interrupting them. 

• Show empathy and compassion to create trust.

• Smile to encourages speakers but avoid distracting movements like checking your watch or phone.

• Maintain eye contact as much as possible while you’re taking notes. I’ve found subjects feel complimented that you take notes, indicating that what they say is important.

In interviewing\two killers for his book In Cold Blood, Truman Capote said that he was afraid they would clam up if he took notes. After he left the prison, he wrote everything he could recall they said. It did not ensure accuracy.

Next: Give readers what they’re interested in

If our reporters wrote better it would make editing their work easier. It would make  our news and feature articles sing. But we lack the time to coach them. Here’s a secret. Help them with a copy of writing coach Jerry Bellune’s The Art of Compelling Writing, $9.99 at They’re worth the investment.

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