Effective Listening

Caucasian woman, seated at table, listens attentively to table partner

About Effective Listening

Hearing well isn’t the same as listening well. A good mentor practices effective listening.

How to Be an Effective Listener

Great mentors are great listeners. Empathetic questioning paired with effective listening is key to a fruitful mentoring experience.  A subtle difference in the way you phrase a question or comment can mean the difference between opening up a conversation and totally shutting one down.  

Listen first. Suggest second. Take every opportunity to include the TA in solution making.  If a TA presents a challenge they experienced during section, ask, “How have you tried to change that?”  The more involved TAs are in the process, the more fully committed they will be to making that change.

Show you’re listening. Some behaviors communicate serious listening.

  • Non-verbal behavior matters. Keep eye contact, smile, and nod. Oh, and stop tapping your foot…
  • Focus your comments to whatever the mentee has just said.
  • Use probing questions. (“Why do you think that is?”)
  • Validate speaker’s ideas and check for clarity through rephrasing. (“If I understand correctly, you’re saying that…”)
  • Jointly come up with a broad range of suggestions.