The ABC's of inclusive listening

Engage with and elevate the voices and experiences of those who are less heard.


Jessica Cara




Jessica Cara

3 minutes

“Inclusion is not bringing people into what already exists; it is making a new space, a better space, for everyone.”
–George Dei, Canadian sociologist

A progressive dialogue is critical for developing more inclusive leadership. By engaging and elevating the voices and experiences of those that are less heard, the morale and well-being of your employees can increase substantially. It also presents a prime opportunity to learn from your staff. So how can you become a more inclusive listener? Take it from the pro, Sridevi Koneru Rao, Vice President of Strategy and Portfolio Management at Cisco.

In Episode 12 of Think Deeply, Speak Simply—Inclusive Listening—Sridevi shares that communication is the cornerstone for developing any successful organization. It can also be a game-changer for retaining and attracting new talent.

Below are three of Sridevi’s top recommendations for becoming a more inclusive communicator.

Repeat what you hear

Throughout the conversation, take special care to visualize what you’re hearing as best you can. Repeat the speaker’s words back to them in your own words at various points in the discussion. This demonstrates not only that you are actively listening, but that you genuinely believe that their words matter. Allow your body language to express your engagement as well. Using good posture like leaning in and nodding along can do wonders for showing how open and receptive you are.

Take your notes

After your conversation, make a note of where you left off so you can pick back up during your next encounter. Whether it’s a specific idea they shared or asking a follow-up question about their children, your listeners will be moved by the gesture. It shows an extra level of care that you went out of your way to recall the details of the conversation.

Don't advise

The whole point of inclusive listening is to allow yourself to learn from others. Be wary of doling out unsolicited advice. Be mindful and encourage the speaker often.

Avoid action-oriented phrases like “You should do this…” or “Next time, this might work better…”

Opt for more positive, probing questions that encourage more details like “Tell me more” or “What does that mean?”

These prompts will carry the conversation in new directions and encourage a two-way channel of communication that makes your staff feel listened to and valued. With these helpful tips in hand, inclusive listening is within reach.

For more information on the power of inclusive communication, listen to the complete Sridevi Koneru Rao episode here.

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