Active Listening and Responding Skills

Listening vs. Active Listening

Listen up! Hey, nice work; you can listen! A lot of people really don't understand everything that this entails, and for something so important, listening is often misunderstood. Listening is the conscious awareness and interpretation of sounds. That makes it different from the subconscious reflex of receiving sound. You hear noise all the time, but listening implies paying attention, being aware of sounds, and giving those noises some sort of meaning.

Active listening goes beyond just listening. Active listening means being attentive to what someone else is saying. The goal of active listening is to understand the feelings and views of the person. In fact, active listening comes from the person-centered therapy - it's an essential component of effective communication.

When listening to another person actively, good eye contact is necessary to convey engagement. If one is truly listening, with the intent of understanding and conveying empathy, then good eye contact should take place naturally and without effort. In addition, there are specific active listening techniques that can be used. The following are examples of active listening techniques that have proven effective to convey both understanding and empathy.

Be Attentive.

Ask Open-ended Questions.

Ask probing Questions.

Request Clarification.


Be attuned to and relief feelings.


Active Listening

What is listening?

  • Obeying a command.
  • The subconscious reflex of receiving sound.
  • The conscious awareness and interpretation of sound.
  • The same thing as hearing.

In order to be an effective listener, the most important thing you can do is to _____.

  • not make direct eye contact with the speaker for fear of making him or her nervous
  • leave the room to take an important call in the middle of the message
  • respond to the message letting the speaker know it has been understood
  • agree with the speaker's message to be polite, even if you are unclear or have questions

If you walk away and feel both heard and understood, that is an example that the other person was _____.

  • passively listening to you
  • actively listening to you
  • not listening to you
  • selectively listening to you

Active listening is an essential component of _____.

  • good relationships
  • engaging with others
  • effective communication
  • All answers are correct

Understanding the _____ of the audience is an important element of effective listening when public speaking.

  • mood
  • income
  • demographic
  • geographic

Email Etiquette

Email Etiquette

  1. Send one email per subject as multiple items in one email will cause delays (have to respond to everything) or misses (forgot one of the items).

  2. Always reply to emails by replying to all, even when no action is needed. This lets the other person know that you received it. A thread is done when there is a single word reply, such as OK, thanks, or done.

  3. If you forward an email without other comments please add FYI (for your information), FYA (for your action), or FYJ (for your judgment). If you forward an external request with FYJ it just means the person who forwarded it will not follow up on the request and expects you to decide if you should follow up or not.

  4. Email forwarding rules are specified in the shared Email, Slack, and [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] Groups and Aliases Google Doc accessible only to people in the company. If you want to be added or removed from an internal alias (for example, "[email protected][INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME].com"), change a rule, or add a forwarding email alias, please suggest an edit in the doc.

  5. Emails are asynchronous, for example, if your manager emails you on a weekend it is fine to reply during the workweek.

If an email is or has become urgent feel free to ping people via chat referencing the subject of the email.

Google Docs

Google Docs

  1. Never use a Google Doc / Presentations for something non-confidential that has to end up on the website or the handbook. Work on these edits via commits to a merge request. Then link to the merge request or diff to present the change to people. This prevents a duplication of effort and/or an out of date handbook.

  2. If you do need a Google Doc, create one with your company G Suite (formerly Google Apps) account. By default, share it with the whole company using the Anyone at [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] can find and access link sharing permission and the Anyone within [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] can edit access permission (preferred) or the Anyone within [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] can comment access permission. Easily do this by creating Google Docs within a Shared Folder in Google Drive.

  3. When referring to a Google Doc or folder on the Google Drive in the handbook, refrain from directly linking it. Instead, indicate the name of the doc. If you link the url people from outside the organization can request access, creating workload and the potential for mistakes. (In the past, linking a Google Doc has led to inadvertently opening the sharing settings beyond what was intended.) This also helps prevent spam from people outside [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] requesting access to a doc when clicking its link.

  4. If you are having trouble finding a shared Google Doc, make sure you Search <your domain> in Google Drive.

  5. If you want to quickly find where a team member's cursor is in a Google Doc, click their icon at the top of the document and the app will jump you to the current location. This works in Sheets and Presentations as well.

Team Calls

Team Calls

  1. Schedule

    • PST: 08:30 am to 09:00 am - Monday to Thursday

    • UTC: 03:30 pm to 04:00 pm - Monday to Thursday

    • CEST: 05:30 pm to 06:00 pm - Monday to Thursday

  2. APAC schedule

    • PST: 09:30 pm to 10:00 pm - Monday

    • UTC: 04:30 am to 05:00 am - Tuesday

    • CEST: 06:30 am to 07:00 am - Tuesday

  3. Everyone at [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] is invited to the team call.

  4. We also have a team call for [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME]bers in the APAC region. This call will also be recorded so the rest of the team can see what their colleagues have been up to! Everyone is encouraged to join this call as well, but it is not mandatory.

  5. Every last Friday of the month we have an AMA to talk about anything our team is thinking about.

  6. We use Zoom for the call since Google Hangouts is capped at 15 people (please be sure to mute your microphone). If using the Zoom web app, you can go to settings and check always mute microphone when joining a meeting.

  7. The link is in the calendar invite and also listed at the top of the team agenda Google Doc called Team Agenda.

  8. The call is recorded automatically, and all calls are transferred every hour to a Google Drive folder called "[INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] Videos". There is a subfolder called "[INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] Team Call", which is accessible to all users with a [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME].com e-mail account.

  9. We start on time and do not wait for people.

  10. The person who has the first item on the agenda starts the call.

  11. If you are unable to attend just add your name to the team agenda as "Not attending".

  12. We start by discussing the subjects that are on the agenda for today.

    • Everyone is free to add subjects. Please start with your name and be sure to link to an issue, merge request, or commit if it is relevant.

    • When done with a point mention the subject of the next item and hand over to the next person.

    • When someone passes the call to you, no need to say, “Can you hear me?” Just begin talking. If we can’t hear you, we’ll let you know.

  13. After the general announcements, each team call has an assigned topic for team members to share their personal interests. The schedule is as follows:

    • Monday: Sports & Wellness, Cooking, Creative Projects, and Entertaining

    • Tuesday: Entertainment (Music, books, TV & Movies, video/board games)

    • Wednesday: Travel, Kids, Family, and Pets

    • Thursday: Mixer Calls, where we split off into smaller groups to discuss what we have been up to. No need to add yourself to the agenda on this day.

    • Friday: Any topic

  14. Please add your name to the agenda at least 15 minutes before the team call is scheduled to start. We encourage 15-20 people to share an update of about a minute to leave time for all listed on the agenda. If you see that a particular day is congested and you have already shared over the last 2 weeks, please consider moving your name to a later week.

  15. It is OK to talk over people or interrupt people to ask questions, cheer for them or show your compassion. This encourages more conversation and feedback in the call. Also see the interruption item in video calls.

  16. Please look if the person you hand over to is present in the participant list so you don't hand over to someone who is not present.

  17. The last person wishes everyone a good day.

  18. Even if you cannot join the call, consider reviewing the recorded call or at minimum read through the team agenda and the links from there. We often use the team call to make announcements or discuss changes in processes, so make sure to catch up on the news if you have missed a team call (or more).

  19. If you are scheduling a meeting, avoid scheduling during the team call so that meeting attendees do not need to choose between your meeting and the team call. As a remote workforce, the team call is an important part of our culture.

Video Calls (copy)

Video Calls

  1. Use video calls if you find yourself going back and forth in an issue/via email or over chat. Rule of thumb: if you have gone back and forth 3 times, it's time for a video call.

  2. Having pets, children, significant others, friends, and family visible during video chats is encouraged. If they are human, ask them to wave at your remote team member to say "Hi".

  3. We prefer Zoom.

  4. For meetings that are scheduled via calendar there is automatically a Google Hangouts URL added. This is the meeting place. Having a url in advance is much more reliable than trying to call via Hangouts as the meeting start.

  5. Google Calendar also has a Zoom plugin where you can easily add a Zoom link for a video call to the invite

  6. Use a headset with a microphone, Apple Earpods are great. Do not use computer speakers, they cause an echo. Do not use your computer microphone, it accentuates background noise. If you want to use your Bose headphones that is fine but please ensure the microphone is active.

  7. Consider using a utility to easily mute/unmute yourself, see Shush in the tools section.

  8. In video calls everyone should own a camera and a headset, even when they are in the same room. This helps seeing and hearing the person that is talking. It also allows people to easily talk and mute themselves. Using a headset also prevents echo. You wouldn't share an office seat together, so don't share your virtual seat at the table.

  9. We start on time and do not wait for people. People are expected to join no later than the scheduled minute of the meeting (before :01 if it is scheduled for :00). The question 'is everyone here' is not needed.

  10. It feels rude in video calls to interrupt people. This is because the latency causes you to talk over the speaker for longer than during an in-person meeting. We should not be discouraged by this, the questions and context provided by interruptions are valuable. This is a situation where we have to do something counter-intuitive to make remote-only meetings work. In [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] everyone is encouraged to interrupt the speaker in a video call to ask a question or offer context. We want everyone to contribute instead of a monologue. Just like in-person meetings be cognizant of when, who, and how you interrupt, we don't want "manterrupting".

  11. We end on the scheduled time. It might feel rude to end a meeting, but you're actually allowing all attendees to be on time for their next meeting.

Situation-Complication-Implication-Position-Action-Benefit (SCIPAB)

Situation-Complication-Implication-Position-Action-Benefit (SCIPAB)

Mandel Communications refers to SCIPAB at the "surefire, six-step method for starting any conversation or presentation." When you only have a few minutes to present your case or grab your listeners attention, this six-step process can help you communicate better and faster.

  • Situation - Expresses the current state for discussion

  • Complication - Summarzies the critical issues, challenges or opportunities

  • Implication - Provides insight into the consequences that will be a result of if the Complications are note addressed.

  • Position - Notes the presenter's opinion on the necessary changes which should be made.

  • Action - Defines the expectations of the target audience/listeners.

  • Benefit - Clearly concludes how the Position and Action sections will address the Complications. This method can be used in presentations, emails and everyday conversations. Example - The Management team asking for time to resolve a problem

  • S - The failure rate last year for product X1 was an acceptable 1.5%.

  • C - Because of supply shortages in the current fiscal year we are forced to change the material of a key component.

  • I - Unfortunately, that resulted in the failure rate doubling this year.

  • P - It is critical we address this problem immediately.

  • A - Please approve the team 5 days to investigate the specific causes of the increase and establish the necessary next steps.

  • B - By doing this we will redue the failure rate to an acceptabel level and develop guidelines for preventing such problems in the future. More information can be found at SCIPAB- Six Steps To Reach Your Audience



Upload conversations to Youtube

  1. If you have a conversation that might be interesting please hit start recording (unless the meeting is livestreamed already).

  2. Log in to Zoom account of the meeting and go to the menu on the right and choose "My Recordings" (it can take 30 minutes before the recording is available).

  3. Select the meeting and download the video recording to your computer (if you can't find the recording because it was a while ago check "Trash" in that menu on the top left and "Recover" the recording).

  4. Go to YouTube upload and log in to the [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] account (read the secure note in 1Password called "YouTube" for instructions on how to get access).

  5. Drag and drop your recording into the window to upload it (keep the privacy dropdown on the default 'Public' setting).

  6. While it's uploading, edit the title and description. If the video is meant to be kept unlisted on our YouTube channel, place "Confidential:" at the beginning of the video's title.

  7. Be sure to include relevant links (for example a handbook page or presentation) in the description, and add the video to any relevant playlists.

  8. When it is done uploading press publish and click on the Embed tab to get the code and place that in the relevant part of the handbook or documentation.

Don't worry about the quality

  1. There is no quality minimum, as long as it is not inappropriate or confidential please share it on our [INSERT YOUR COMPANY'S NAME] Youtube channel.

  2. Everyone at the company probably has at least one conversation every week that is relevant to more people, please share it.

  3. We always list the video instead of having an unlisted video unless there is confidential content, this allows more people to find the content.

  4. Don't worry about it not being interesting to everyone, just give it a descriptive title so people know what it is about.

  5. Make sure that participants are aware that you're recording.

  6. When you hit record you don't have to be sure if it is interesting and OK to share, you can make that decision after the fact.

  7. If you record an in-person conversation via your mobile phone please hold your phone in landscape mode.

Why record?

  1. Allow other people to consume the content.

  2. Allow the participants to review the content later.

  3. No need to repeat yourself.

Why Youtube and not Google Drive?

Always use YouTube and never use Google Drive:

  1. Video's are streamed more reliably.

  2. Video's have mouse-over thumbnails.

  3. Video's can be played at a higher speed.

  4. Video's can be fast forwarded and rewinded 15 seconds.

  5. Video's can be timeshifted with a watch later list.

  6. Video's can be embedded, for example in the handbook.

  7. Video's restart after being reloaded at the right point.

  8. You can easily view Youtube on other devices like TVs.

  9. YouTube makes it easy to link to a specific time in the video.

  10. YouTube adds automatic subtitles.

  11. YouTube is zero rated by some mobile providers

  12. Youtube is a distribution channel, it will show it to people when it is relevant.

  13. Everyone can contribute by leaving comments.