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Connect - Collaborate - Communicate

Introducing our second series of learning bursts. This series is all about working from home and because we like an acronym we’re calling it WFH: Connect - Collaborate - Communicate (okay, the second part isn’t an acronym!).

In this series we’ll share some top tips for managers, teams and individuals to get the best out of WFH, including being productive, combating loneliness and staying connected.

For more modules and topics go to our online learning page.


This week, in our third learning burst from the ‘Working from home’ theme, we’re giving you some top tips on how to really listen to others...


Stephanie Davies and Dave Keeling share their unique take on the importance of listening as an effective communication technique.


Reading time approx. 5 minutes. Collaborate successfully at home by practising and refining your listening skills.

Listening: It’s Not as Easy as it Sounds

Listening is an essential skill for effective communication. Some could argue it’s the most important, based on our need to feel understood.

We’ve all been part of a conversation or a meeting where it’s evident that people are just not listening. It impacts relationships and, in a workplace, can also cost time and money.

However, there are reasons for this.

As it turns out, listening isn’t as easy as you might think. Scientific research shows that we listen to people at a rate of 125-250 words per minute, but think at a rate of 1000-3000 words per minute -  clearly there’s a lot going on in our heads when we’re trying to listen to others. The good news is we can improve our listening skills through practise.

Many of us are now working from home, changing the way we communicate.  Remote work and listening can seem difficult because the amount of face-to-face contact is limited. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t listen. Listening is even more important now than ever before.

So, you think you’re a good listener?

Did you know that there are many different types of listening? Let’s have a look at the 3 main types:

  • Internal Listening: We listen in terms of our own experience and formulate our own opinion. We’re not really listening, we're just waiting for a chance to pounce and put our opinions forward; it makes us feel good, but it’s not much good for the person on the receiving end.
  • Focussed Listening: We concentrate on the other person and listen to understand. We demonstrate that we’re listening by asking questions to further our understanding.
  • Observed Listening: We demonstrate focused listening, observing both what we see and hear, as well as what we don’t see and hear. What’s not being said behind the words? We observe people’s behaviours and body language, as well as the words they say or type.

Tips to help improve our listening skills:

In order to use your listening skills effectively, have several different platforms to use, as well as a plan for how and when to use them. Be aware of the limitations of each online communication method and adapt them so that you can truly listen. If possible, engage face-to-face on your chosen platform, as seeing someone’s face can help you pick up on nonverbal cues.

If you can’t speak to the person face-to-face, focus on your online language - emails and text can be easily misconstrued. Ask questions for clarification! This way, everyone’s clear on what’s being said.

Remember to have a break too. Trying to do too much or multitasking can cause us to stop listening. Remove as many distractions as you can. If it’s an important phone call, go somewhere quiet.

Avoid interrupting someone when they’re speaking. For all you know, they could be about to explain whatever it is you’re going to comment on. Write down things you want to ask, as well as things that are distracting you. Create a column for ‘in’ (things relevant to the conversation) and a column for ‘out’ (things that randomly jump into your head).

We often see the world through the lens of our own experiences, personality and beliefs. Show some empathy and listen to understand a situation from someone else's point of view.

Listening helps us tune into what’s going on, as well as what others need and how they feel. In turn, this helps us build better relationships, make decisions, increase our knowledge and be more productive.

So, give it a go! Remember, you were given two ears and one mouth for a reason.

And, as the Dalai Lama says, “When you talk, you’re only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”


These cheat sheets are for managers and teams. They have helpful tips and techniques for having one-to-ones remotely as well as ideas for communicating that keeps everyone connected whilst protecting personal space and boundaries. You can download them onto your phone or laptop and use them when you need to.

DOWNLOAD: Download the Communicating with tech Cheat Sheets

Download the Communicating with tech Cheat Sheets

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Download the Listening Bug Buzz Session

This Buzz session is an activity sheet that can be done with teams to encourage everyone to think about communication and listening. It explores listening and communicating well and the challenges of this virtually and how we can be better. It’s a fun team activity that can be delivered virtually for team building.

DOWNLOAD: Listening Bug Buzz Session

Coming up...

Coming up from the 18th May we start a new series of Learning Bursts all about supporting mental health and wellbeing We kick off the series on the 18th to support Mental Health at work week. There will be hacks on supporting your own positive mental health, activities to do with your teams, tips for creating a positive mental health strategy, cheats sheets and plenty more.

Free virtual workplace learning & development classrooms. Register now.

big chat about mental health logo


Are organisations and companies just paying lip service?
Join some of the most interesting and respected voices in positive psychology for our Our Big Chat about…Thinking outside the tick box, inaugural webinar. Our two and half hour interactive event will look at the best mental health strategies for organisations, identifying what works and what doesn’t.

Dave McPartlin:

Dave is the Headteacher of Flakefleet Primary School.
Creating the right environment for people and communities to flourish

Sunita Hirani

Sunita is one of the BBC’s key equality, diversity and inclusivity experts.
Why inclusion is essential for mental wellbeing

Professor Sir Cary Cooper

Cary is one the world’s most influential voices in occupational health and wellbeing.
Enhancing Mental Wellbeing at Work. Evidence based strategies for creating a wellbeing culture at work.

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