Behavior 4: Listen to Understand


Whether you’re an avid talker or think you’re a pretty good listener, listening to understand takes practice and dedication to truly commit to the matter at hand, really listening to those who are talking to you.

With the rise of technology, our minds constantly wandering, and the inability to live in the moment, it’s no wonder it’s difficult to truly listen to those trying to reach out to us. While on coffee dates with friends, instead of listening, we’re constantly texting on our phones. In the middle of business meetings, our mind is elsewhere, thinking about the weekend or plans for later that night. Whether you can relate to these instances or you try your best to truly be in the moment and listen, you can always improve your servant leadership listening skills!

The first step is to listen. Put down your phone, stop talking and truly listen to the words the person is saying. Pay attention to your body language. Are you looking the person in the eyes, are you nodding and relating to what the person is saying? Even if you disagree or feel the need to interject, try to understand how the person feels and wait till they are done speaking. Summarizing what the person has expressed is a great way to show you did listen and are aware of how they feel.

It’s important to note that when listening, the person talking may not always be looking for a quick fix or advice. Don’t jump to conclusions on how to fix the situation. It is very possible they just want to vent and connect with you emotionally.

When you practice this 4th servant leadership behavior, you will be more present in your conversations, a better communicator and a more intentional listener.

Evaluate your listening skills, take a step back, put down the phone, and listen to understand.


Erin Joyce

Social Media Consultant for Servant Leadership Institute