Why listening skills benefit your career

Good listening skills can foster a better, more supportive work place, more understanding between opposing parties and can improve services and products. To become a good listener, you might want to follow three tips that a study by Harvard Business Review found work best.


Developing good listening skills is more difficult than most might think. It affords effort and patience. Former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano once told McKinsey Quarterly Palmisano that he finally learned the skill by living in Japan. “I learned to listen by having only one objective: comprehension. I was only trying to understand what the person was trying to convey to me. I wasn’t listening to critique or object or convince,” he told the magazine.

An article in Fast Company went further and tried to dig deeper and find out what the difference was between listening and hearing. Looking at a study by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) they found that good listeners shared a few common traits. Based on a survey of nearly 3,500 participants, the few tips that they could deduct from outstanding listeners seemed to be to:

1. To ask questions referring to what somebody said.

2. To be supportive, not defensive or aggressive.

3. To make suggestions without being too intrusive.

As professional benefits of tuning in, they found that:

  1. Good listening helped create a psychologically safe workplace environment. When employees feel supported, they’re more likely to contribute ideas and in turn teams are more likely to find solutions to problems.
  2. Careful listening also helped to foster more understanding between parties, even when they did not share the same opinions or were in an argument. The research found that it helps to convince people by using an opponent’s moral framework, to listen carefully and respond based on the other person’s perspective. This might lead to a consensus that might help to work towards a mutual goal.
  3. According to Bernard Ferrari, dean of the Carey Business School of the Johns Hopkins University, listening carefully can help with generating new ideas and identifying smart business opportunities. “Good listening – the active and disciplined activity of probing and challenging the information garnered from others to improve its quality and quantity – is the key to building a base of knowledge that generates fresh insights and ideas,” he once said according to Fast Company.

Companies that listen to their users’ or customers’ suggestions or complaints will be able to improve their products or services, the study found. Often companies that only concentrate on their own ideas and fail to listen to valuable feedback end up alienating the customer.


Read more on fastcompany.com