How To Practice Active Listening

Dennis Yu Explaining Active Listening With Marko Sipilä

Imagine you walk into a doctor’s office, explain to them that your knee is aching, and they respond with an “Mhmmm I understand.” and then leave. Would you trust that doctor to operate on you? How can you be sure they understand the problem?

On the surface, there shouldn’t be a reason for alarm. After all – they just said they understood you! Why would you be concerned?

The reason why you’d be concerned is that the perception is the doctor doesn’t really care about your goals or struggles, and therefore you don’t feel comfortable with him operating on you.

Whenever you’re messaging clients or team members, the same impression happens when you fail at active listening. Clients get angry, projects get delayed, and people get fired.

Here’s the good news: active listening is easy to start and practice today.

In fact, VA’s, project leads, and anyone following active listening almost always get paid more money – simply because they understand the concerns of those they’re speaking with. Not only that, but the person they’re speaking with knows they understand, too.

The reason why you’re reading this is because I want you to practice active listening, one of the most important soft skills you can have for digital marketing.

Active listening goes beyond merely hearing words; it involves truly comprehending the speaker’s message and reflecting it back accurately. The key to active listening is not just acknowledging the message but ensuring that the speaker feels understood.

When someone communicates an issue, instead of responding with a simple “I understand,” you should rephrase their concern in your own words and seek confirmation.

For instance, if a client is unhappy about a report being late, you might say, “What I hear you saying is that you’re not happy because the report has been coming late. Is that correct?” This approach not only confirms your understanding but also shows the speaker that you are actively engaged in the conversation.

Active vs Passive Listening:

The opposite of active listening is passive listening, which is characterized by telling the other person what they want to hear, without clearly explaining what it is they just asked you to do.

This is one of the most common VA mistakes after the #1 VA mistake of not understanding client goals. A tell-tale sign of passive listening is answering questions and assignments with an “okay” or “I understand”.

This phrase, without elaboration, fails to demonstrate genuine comprehension. Active listening requires more effort and engagement. By repeating the issue in your words, you provide an opportunity for clarification and ensure there is no miscommunication.

For example, if a client is dissatisfied with the creative aspects of a project, you could respond with, “So, you’re not happy with the creative direction we took for the website. Is that right?”.

This method helps in accurately identifying the problem and sets the stage for a constructive discussion on how to address it.

It’s okay to admit mistakes as long as you’re listening and willing to improve.

Many VAs go into hiding once they’ve made a mistake. Some VAs string up every excuse in the book to avoid 5 minutes of discomfort.

The hardest part of active listening is the need to admit when you’ve made a mistake. The natural tendency might be to deny the problem, ignore it, or downplay its significance. Active listening involves openly acknowledging issues and working collaboratively to find solutions.

There’s a saying that “doing the same thing over and over again without results is the definition of insanity”. But without proper reflection – how can we expect to avoid making the same mistakes?

For example – if you’ve failed to complete a project, instead of continuing to play hide-and-seek, message us acknowledging you’ve failed, repeat that you understand why clients might be mad, and address what you’ll do to fix it.

Active listening is not about quick fixes or superficial understanding. It’s about building a common ground and a shared analysis of the problem. This approach is essential for effective problem-solving and fostering trust in professional relationships.

Ready to practice active listening?

To practice active listening, apply it in all forms of communication—emails, Zoom calls, and face-to-face meetings. Reflect the speaker’s words back to them and ask for confirmation to ensure you have understood correctly.

This technique not only enhances clarity but also strengthens your ability to address issues effectively.

If you’ve been sent this blog post, you can practice active listening now by repeating a sentence or paragraph in it to us, with your own thoughts on how you can improve.

The goal here is to make active listening a daily habit. By doing so, you can identify and bridge communication gaps, ultimately becoming more effective in your professional interactions.

This skill is invaluable, often outweighing technical abilities like PPC, SEO, or video editing in its impact on your overall success.

Active listening is a powerful tool in the arsenal of any professional. By truly understanding and reflecting the concerns of others, you can improve communication, solve problems more efficiently, and build stronger relationships.

The good news is that this is an increasingly rare communication style, so mastering active listening can significantly enhance your effectiveness in digital marketing and beyond, simply because no one else is doing it.

Put this skill to test in your daily interactions and observe the difference it makes. 

Whether in client meetings or team collaborations, active listening can help you navigate challenges and achieve better outcomes.

This is for VAs, American client leads, or anyone who’s serious about providing value to others and building long lasting relationships. Embrace this practice, and you’ll find it a game-changer in your professional journey.

Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is co-author of the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in social media, The Definitive Guide to TikTok Ads.  He has spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads across his agencies and agencies he advises. Mr. Yu is the "million jobs" guy-- on a mission to create one million jobs via hands-on social media training, partnering with universities and professional organizations.You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.