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Now that the HRM is in a position to start ‘really’ listening, he/she needs to break down the main components of active listening to become a better listener.

  • Listener Orientation
  • Reflective technique
  • Questioning Skills

Listener Orientation

Successful active listening begins with you making a conscious effort to approach the conversation with a positive attitude to the other person and to the encounter itself.

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The HRM must change from his/her perspective of  ‘What can I do for this worker?’ or even ‘How do I see this worker?’ to the perspective of the worker ‘How does this worker see themselves and their situation?’

By understanding better where the worker is coming from, you will have a better chance of discerning what he/she means and how he/she means it.

Reflective Technique

The reflective technique ensures that the HRM and the worker are of a similar understanding. This provides a sounding board for the HRM to restructure his approach if there is no understanding from those he is trying to reach.

Reflective or active listening is a skill with which the HRM attempts to hear and accurately give a feedback of the content and feeling of the worker’s message.

Reflective listening shows that he is working to understand how it feels to be an employee.

This provides evidence to the worker that what they are saying is important. It involves three sub-skills represented by the EAR in HEART;


Empathizing: Empathy begins with awareness of another person’s feelings and develops naturally out of active listening. Reflecting how a worker is feeling without appearing negative or judgmental. HRM practitioners also need to pay attention to the precise language that they are using.

The ability to empathize is critical, as it helps to ‘tune in’ to the things that are important to the worker. Empathy is surprisingly difficult to achieve because we all have a strong tendency to advise, tell, agree, or disagree from our own point of view.

Attending: Using non-verbal indicators such as leaning forward in an open, accepting, neutral position during a meeting or presentation. To discern the importance of what is being presented at the time, you need to be able to tell when a worker is using body language to emphasize or change the meaning of a point.

Reflecting:  Repeating in your own words what the worker has said and suspending judgment on what was said.


Questioning Skills

To be able to best prepare for a meeting, the HRM has to know how best to ask questions that will result in the answer he/she is looking for. This means asking the right questions at the right time. Every question has a purpose and the HR practitioner needs to be aware of what they are trying to achieve through their questions, how the questions are being experienced, and how the questions are setting the tone and shaping the process of engagement.

Many questions are either too broad and unfocused or too narrow and limiting. As a result, typically the responses from the workers are vague and noncommittal.

Probing is a technique which an HRM can use in asking a question in other to go beyond what they have said to elaborate.

Asking “why” probing questions, can help discover areas of mutual interests and maximize the amount of information a worker is willing to share.

Asking “what about that is important to you?” gives the worker an opportunity to elaborate without raising defensiveness.

Probing questions are open-ended. This means that they cannot be answered by “yes or “no”. Probing questions will begin with what, when, where, how, who and, to a lesser extent, why. Asking “why” may lead the worker to feel judged and become defensive.

Open-ended questions elicit information.

It is important for the HRM not to introduce bias or imply that some responses are more acceptable than others when probing.

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ADR Daily is a specialized news portal with a focus on providing authentic news, information and research analysis on Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR), Human Resource Management (HRM) and Industrial Relations Management (IRM) in Ghana and beyond. This platform serves as an information resource base for the progress of the ADR, HRM and IRM industries, and seeks to promote professionalism in ADR practice by supporting a network of ADR professionals within and across nations and continents. ADR Daily keenly encourages the mass adoption of ADR mechanisms, particularly negotiation, mediation and arbitration for the resolution of disputes in all spheres, through the publication of industry news and information, as well as by deploying innovative awareness creation engagements.