Communication – Art of Listening


Hannele Tiittanen, LicNSc, MSc, RN
LAB University of Applied Sciences, Lahti, Finland



All organizations consist of people. Machines are easy to manage. Every machine understands the received communication in unified way. When managing people, the challenge number one is communication – or lack of it. In general, excluding rare co-incidences, communication tends to fail. The receiving person understands the message differently than the sending person meant it to be. Communication is not just talking it is also listening. Rose O. Sherman writes in her popular personal blog, EmergingRNLeader (, about the wisdom of listening as leaders’ superpower and way to success. However, how to listen is not focused on that much when we are developing communication skills. Good listening skills are necessary for example in coaching leadership, about 80% of time should be spent in listening, just 20% for talking when coaching people.

Effective nurse leader listens what people have to say. Most people in working places want to express their thoughts and want to be heard, not that the leader jumps in and gives advice or orders. Active listening starts by making good questions and then being curious what your staff wants to say, and you show that you are keen on listening. Main concept in active listening is repeating back what you heard and making sure in that way that you have listened and understood what the person is telling you. Also, the good eye contact is needed to show your interest for the issue you are told. When you manage to listen your staff feels valued, respected, more hopeful and they will be more engaged in their work. It is good to remember that if we just pretend to listen, it is easy to see and it easily causes disappointment and disrespect. Listening is not a self-evident skill, but it is possible to learn. Ask yourself why am I talking. By listening there is always a possibility to learn something new from your staff and individual persons working in your organization. Trust, honesty and openness are prerequisites to build up a culture where the leader is trusted, and open culture and communication are possible. Listening is not a skill which is mentioned in a job description, but the leaders who listen their staff are in a good position to lead the changes that are going on in healthcare. The leaders who are good listeners are more compassionate leaders.

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