Listen to One Person During Conversations

Communication skills – of all types and to all sizes of groups – are one of the leaders’ most important skill sets.

Successful leaders are able to constructively communicate with others.

However, some situations give even veteran leaders pause:

  • Nervousness when speaking to groups
  • Dominating (unintentionally) conversations
  • Arguments and disagreements

When it comes to these situations, leaders must be the “one” to make improvements.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Think on Your Feet by Jen Oleniczak Brown

Most people react to the unexpected with anxiety and unease. We get rattled, stumble over our words, and overthink the situation. Others, though, handle it with self-assurance and aplomb. They gain a sense of empowerment and energy when the pressure is on.

Like great improv actors, they’re able to think on their feet.

The great thing is, improv isn’t about winging it or flying by the seat of your pants; improv at its core is about listening and responding. It’s based on rules and techniques, and it taps directly into your soft communication skills. By incorporating it into your prep work for professional situations, you’ll learn how to retrain your brain for the unexpected and get out of your own way in those unexpected―and expected―professional situations. Practicing improv isn’t about being funny. Instead, it’s about developing the mental agility to spin any surprise in your favor and to communicate with confidence.

Filled with engaging improv activities, this interactive guide will ensure you never come away from a tough moment pondering the woulda, coulda, shoulda! again. You’ll learn how to nurture your personal style for communicating in every professional situation. From effective listening in the office, giving presentations, and leading meetings to negotiating a raise, acing an interview, and more, you’ll start communicating with confidence and stop letting the unexpected hold you back. Take your workplace communication―and your career―to the next level by mastering the art of Thinking on Your Feet.


Many leaders are either too busy to listen or are more interested in speaking. As a result, listening intently, regularly, and respectfully to team members separates the great leader from the good one.

According to author Jen Oleniczak Brown, everyday personal conversations are the hardest form of communication. After all, when you are preparing a sermon or presentation, you usually have a structure to follow, and most times, you are going to be rehearsing it prior to delivery.

Interpersonal communication, on the other hand, is all improvisation. You can plan and plan and plan, and you’ll still have no clue how the person you’re talking to will respond to anything you’re saying.

While interpersonal communication is one of the most unexpected parts of professional communication, it can be the most rewarding. It’s not every day you give a massive presentation or lead group meetings. Chances are, it is every day you talk to people in your office. That makes it something you can almost immediately work on and improve, with just a little nudge.

There are ways to practice and prep for this type of communication, especially when you spend time on active listening.

If you haven’t tapped into a basic foundation element like listening, you can’t get into the back and forth of exchanging information, giving feedback, or asking questions.

To improve our interpersonal communication, we need to understand how we listen. Taking note of the ways you show your active listening forces you to pay closer attention to how well you listen.

There are many different ways to listen, and the most common types of listening in professional communication are information listening (listening to learn), critical listening (listening to evaluate and analyze), and therapeutic or empathetic listening (listening to understand feeling and emotion).

Informational listening is what we might do in a meeting that we don’t really care about. We’re just attending to the information, taking it in and often taking notes we might look at later.

Critical listening involves thinking about what the person is trying to say – you’re thinking beyond just the words you’re hearing. You’re digesting the information and digging into it, whether with verbal reflection or internal thought.

Empathetic listening happens more in our home and personal life. You’re thinking about feelings and emotions. Empathetic listening should be used to understand how the speaker might feel or the circumstances around what they are saying.

Jen Oleniczak Brown, Think on Your Feet


Author Oleniczak Brown suggests the following exercises to help you begin to identify and improve your active listening skills in the three areas mentioned above.

First, how do you show you’re listening? Take a moment and think about a recent conversation. If you can’t remember one, immediately following your next conversation, show that you’re listening. Maybe it’s smiling or nodding – or maybe it’s another way. Jot a few physical and mental actions down before you forget – and don’t spend so much time paying attention to yourself that you forget to listen.

Next, turn on the TV, a podcast, or a video. First, listen for the three different types of listening skills, and write them down as you hear them.

Now listen to learn for two minutes, and then listen to evaluate and analyze for another two, and if appropriate, listen to understand feeling for another two minutes. Write down a few similarities and differences for each type.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 137, released January 2020.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<


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