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Listening - Your Communication Superpower

Listening - Your Communication Superpower

Everyone speaks about critical communication skills, but good communication isn’t just about talking to people but also listening to them. This under-taught skill may have lapsed in use and practice in the aftermath of Covid-19 but can be improved with proven tips and methods. Whether you are an individual contributor or someone who has people reporting to you, leveling up your listening can supercharge your career. Let’s discover active listening, the importance of nonverbal communication cues, and how to hone your empathic abilities to make you the finest teammate and leader you can be.


April 24, 2023

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    Your Communication Superpower Christine Seeman

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  2. Let’s start with an origin story

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  4. …maybe not quite that type of origin

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  5. Brand new job!

    Brand new company!

    Brand new team!

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  6. She is so excited to jump in, that she
    interrupts into conversations…

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  7. …and starts sharing, asking for help on new tickets and asking lots
    of questions.


    All the time

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  8. How do you think her coworkers react

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  9. Doesn’t listen

    Is not respectful

    Can’t do her own work

    Not working well together on the team

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  10. !?#%

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  11. Communications skills aren’t innate

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  12. @[email protected]
    Drawbacks of bad communication
    • Communication failures can cause problems with the
    people we interact with the most

    • Can cause problems at work

    • Possibly emotional distress and loneliness

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  13. So how do you help get your message

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  14. Benefits of Active Listening

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  15. @[email protected]
    • Help others feel connected to you

    • Positively influence relationships

    • It helps people feel heard, understood, cared for and respected

    • Coworkers are more likely to collaborate

    • Clients may prefer you over others who do not take the time to listen

    • Become a better leader

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  16. Elementary Middle High University

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  17. How do you become a better

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  18. By becoming an active listener

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  19. @[email protected]
    Definition of Active Listening
    Psychologists Carl Rogers and Richard Farson developed the concept of active
    listening in a 1957 paper.

    They defined the term “Active Listening” as a skill that requires few actions:

    • Listening for the full meaning of a message

    • Responding to emotions

    • Noticing nonverbal communications

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  20. The difference between listening and
    really listening

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  21. @[email protected]

    Carl R. Rogers and Richard E. Farson
    Listening brings about changes in
    peoples attitudes toward
    themselves and others…

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  22. … but how do you listen for the full
    meaning of a message?

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  23. @[email protected]
    Messages have two components
    • The content of the message

    • The feeling or attitude underlying the content

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  24. Let’s compare two statements

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  25. “I’ve finished my UI ticket”

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  26. “Finally, I wrapped up that stupid ticket
    where I had to work on the front end”

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  27. Content of the message is the same,
    but the actual message has changed

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  29. What could have helped the engineer?

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  30. What could have helped the engineer?
    Listen to the full meaning of the messages her coworkers are trying to say!

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  31. How to respond to feelings/emotions?

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  32. @[email protected]
    • Ability to sense another person’s feelings and imagine what it’s like to be in
    their position

    • By understanding another person emotions, you can acknowledge and

    • Without empathy we are less capable of responding to others

    • By noticing a person’s emotion, this lets them know the emotional part of the
    message is heard

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  33. Without empathy, we only hear words
    that another person is saying.

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  34. Going back to our frustrated co-worker

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  35. Going back to our frustrated co-worker
    “Finally, I wrapped up that stupid ticket where I had to work on the front end”

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  36. University
    College Debt
    Health Insurance
    Rent Commuting
    Cheap Furniture Crappy Apartments
    Laundry Taxes
    Car Insurance
    Real Life

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  37. Reviewing requirements

    Design an application

    Configure application

    Build application

    Test application


    Code reviews

    Fix any defects

    Performance problems

    Create technical documentation
    All the responsibilities for a software engineer…

    but where is the part about working well on a team?

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  38. Noticing nonverbal communications

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  39. @[email protected]
    What is Nonverbal Communication
    • Also called paralanguage

    • Any type of language that doesn’t use words

    • Aka body language…

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  41. @[email protected]
    Nonverbal communication
    • As a listener, what should you pay attention to?

    • Inflection of their voice, posture, facial expression and eye contact

    • Does the speaker stress certain points?

    • Are you speaking loudly or softly?

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  42. @[email protected]
    Nonverbal communication
    • Nonverbal cues a listener can use

    • mhmm

    • ahh

    • Head nods

    • Posture

    • Eye contact

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  43. Nonverbal Demo Time

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  44. Facial Expression

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  45. Body Language

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  46. @[email protected]
    Just as important on video calls as in person
    • Leave your camera on!

    • Showing you are listening is missing with a lot of remote meetings

    • You can demonstrate that same nonverbal communication in your remote

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  47. Once you notice the full message,
    attempt to clarify your understanding

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  48. @[email protected]
    To clarify your understanding, paraphrase!
    • Just check if you understood the speaker correctly, in your own words.

    • This is a feedback loop!

    • Helps helps boost the effectiveness of nonverbal communication

    • Together, paraphrasing and nonverbal language leave listener feeling more
    understood and satisfied with the interactions

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  49. Could this have helped the engineer?

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  50. Could this have helped the engineer?
    Yes, clarified understanding in conversations.

    Coworkers would feel heard, she would then leave them more satisfied with interactions

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  51. Emotional Labeling

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  52. @[email protected]
    Emotional Labeling
    • Helpful for communicator and listener

    • When the emotion has been recognized for what it is, then it can be validated!

    • Have you ever felt mad about something? Then felt guilty about being mad?

    • This happens when you don’t think you should feel something you feel!

    • When emotions are accepted, they are validated.

    • With active listening, the goal is allow others to express emotions and opinions.

    • The speaker has a right to feel the way they do, or believe in what they do

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  53. Putting it all together

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  54. @[email protected]
    Listen for the full
    Notice nonverbal
    Respond to

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  55. @[email protected]
    Listen for the full
    Notice nonverbal
    Respond to

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  56. @[email protected]
    Listen for the full
    Notice nonverbal
    Respond to

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  57. There can be


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  58. @[email protected]

    Carl R. Rogers and Richard E. Farson
    Because listening reduces the threat of having
    one’s ideas criticized, the person is better able
    to see them for what they are and is more likely
    to feel that his contributions are worthwhile.

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  59. @[email protected]
    Judging - When you have your mind full of judgements, you can’t listen to the opinions of others

    To help, practice empathy

    Patronizing - Don’t be that patronizing coworker, people are less likely to want to be around you.

    Help can be provided with respect and treating others as equals

    Topping - Taking over a conversation or being the person who as to “top” the other.

    If you want to add to the conversation, add something to it, don’t just try to be the most interesting person in the room

    Distraction - If you are distracted while in a conversation, people will notice.

    Be honest if you have something taking away your concentration, and then try to remove it (aka. Put down your phone)

    Word vomit - Speaking without a filter. This may hurt someones feelings

    Pay attention to the words you choose

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  60. @[email protected]
    Obstacles to listening
    • Physical noise

    • External sounds

    • Physiological noise

    • Biological impairments

    • Semantic noise

    • Understanding the meaning

    • Psychological noise

    • Mental or emotional factors

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  61. @[email protected]
    All things that were impacting the engineer
    • Physical noise

    • New to open concept!

    • Semantic noise

    • New tech stack + new industry == all new acronyms

    • Psychological noise

    • Frustration was getting in the way of seeing solutions

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  62. Active listening shows

    “I respect your thoughts, and even if I don’t agree with
    them, I know that they are valid for you.”

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  63. Listening is a growth experience

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  64. Plot Twist

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  65. @[email protected]
    The engineer was me!

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  69. You can never be a perfect

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  70. ..but you can be a good one

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  71. References and further reading


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  72. @[email protected]
    Christine Seeman
    Who am I?
    🌽 lifetime learner from Omaha, NE

    📚 likes to read too much

    🥙🍜🍛 eats food that probably took too long to prepare

    Professionally solving problems on the CI/CD team at WP Engine

    christine-seeman.com @[email protected]

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  73. 👏 Thanks 👏

    Connectaha 2023 organizers and volunteers

    Tyson Reeder for slide design guidance and review (he’s the best)

    Graphics from:




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