Do you have the Fix it gene?  I certainly do.  And I came by it honestly.  Everyone in my family has it too.  We’re an amazingly competent wolf pack of fixers.  But that’s not good listening, good therapy or even good relationship skills.  Right?  It’s a subtle form of telling another person that you know best.  It doesn’t usually go over well.

When we don’t get listened to skillfully, when we don’t feel seen, heard, valued or loved, it’s a recipe for some good drama.  In fact, we act out.  And that’s where the damage gets done.

The good news…there ARE skills to be learned.  I spent much of my 20’s learning these skills as I was cutting my facilitator teeth in Outward Bound’s youth-at-risk programs.  You can’t be successful with that population, without getting good at Active Listening.  Good listening had a way of immediately soothing the anxious, skeptical teen.  It opened the doors for a transformative connection.

Active Listening is a powerful, profound, process of unfolding layers of truth.  It’s love in action.  When we listen well, we’re showing up, being present and hearing the deeper meaning, context and needs of another human being.  It’s transformational.

I’ve offered a list of behaviors to consider and ones to avoid as you begin to hone your listening skills.

Download PDF Here:
Active Listening Skills
Excerpts from LET by Dr. Thomas Gordon 

Active Listening Skills





















Cultivate Curiosity
by Inquiring


  • to convey that you are interested and listening
  • To encourage the person to continue talking


  • To get at additional facts
  • To help the person explore all sides of a problem


  • To check out meaning and interpretation with the other person
  • To show you are listening and you understand what the other has said


  • To bring all the discussion into focus in terms of a summary
  • To review what ground has been covered
  • To serve as a spring board to discussion


  • To open up th econversation
  • To let the person know that you care and have room to listen
  • To decrease defensiveness
  • To create the possibility of problem-solving together rather than taking positions

Possible Responses


  • ‘I get it.’
  • ‘I understand.’
  • ‘That’s a great idea.’


  • ‘Tell me more about…’
  • ‘Do you mean…?’
  • ‘Let me see if I understand…?’


  • Tell me if I’m wrong, what I hear you saying, is…’
  • ‘As I understand it, you…’
  • ‘Is this waht you have decided to do…and the reasons are…’


  • These seem to be the key ideas…’
  • ‘If I understand what you’re saying, you feel that…’




  • ‘Tell me more about…’
  • ‘How did that impact you?’
  • ‘What is your take on it?’

Road Blocks to Avoid

Ordering, Directing, Commanding

Warning, Admonishing, Threatening

Moralizing, Preaching, Imploring

Advising, Giving Suggestions, Or Solutions

Persuading with Logic,
Lecturing, Arguing


Letting the Speaker’s Emotion Trigger Your Own

Jumping to Conclusions

Judging, Criticizing, Disagreeing, Blaming

Praising, Agreeing, Evaluating Positively

Name-Calling, Ridiculing, Shaming

Interpreting, Analyzing, Diagnosing

Reassuring, Sympathizing, Consoling, Supporting

Probing, Questioning, Interrogating

Distracting, Diverting, Kidding


  • You must do this.
  • I expect you to do this.


  • You had better do this, or else…
  • If you don’t do this, then…


  • You should…
  • You ought to…
  • It’s your responsibility…



  • It would be best for you if you…
  • The best solution is…


  • Do you realize that…?
  • The facts are in favor of…






  • You’re not going to go are you?
  • I see what’s coming.


  • You’re wrong.
  • That’s stupid.
  • Here’s the right way.


  • You should have very good judgment.
  • You are an intelligent person.


  • You’re a sloppy worker.
  • You never get it right.



  • You’re saying this because you’re angry.
  • You’re jealous.


  • You’ll feel different tomorrow.
  • Things will get better.


  • Why did you do that?
  • How long have you felt that way?


  • Think about the positive side.
  • Let’s go for lunch and forget about it.


  • Stop it.
  • Go apologize to her.


  • You better not try that.
  • I warn you.



  • It’s your duty…
  • I wish you would…




  • I think you should…
  • Let me suggest…


  • Here’s the right way.
  • Experience tells us that…







  • It’s all going to be ruined.



  • Expeience tells us that…
  • You didn’t do it just right.


  • You have so much potential.
  • You have made quite a bit of progress.


  • I always have to double-check your work.
  • You really goofed on this one!


  • What you really need is…
  • You have problems with authority.


  • It’s not that bad.
  • Behind every cloud, there’s a silver lining.


  • Who have you consulted on this?
  • When did you first become aware of that?


  • You think you’ve got problems!
  • That reminds me of the time when…

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