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HRM practitioners are expected to listen with the heart for the purpose of ensuring not only the understanding of the words spoken by the employees or other members of management but also their meaning, demonstrating interest, helping them feel understood, allowing them to think about what they have said, encouraging them to explain fully and checking unintended meanings and assumptions.

Likewise an HRM is supposed to listen with the heart before acting, arguing, or criticizing, when a worker has strong feelings or wants to talk over a problem, when another person be it a worker or management wants to sort out his or her feelings and thoughts about a specific situation.

To Listen reflectively with the heart, HRM practitioners are expected to remain impartial, concentrate on what is being said and restate what was said in their words, respond to verbal and non-verbal clues and show understanding through non-verbal responses. They must also put themselves in the shoes of the workers to understand what they saying and how they feel.

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For every HR practitioner to listen actively with the heart, they need to employ some elements during their interaction with their workers and other members of management.

Each element is appropriately illustrated in varying CIRCUMSTANCES.

CLARIFY– I’m not sure I understand…

UNDERSTAND– What I think I heard you say was ….

REFLECT– You seem ….. (Emotion)

VALIDATE– Acknowledge and appreciate

ENCOURAGE– Say more about …

SUMMARIZE– Restate the main points of the CONVERSATION so far.



 SMILE– appropriately

OPEN BODY POSTURE– face the speaker

FORWARD– lean toward the speaker

TOUCH– be careful

EYE CONTACT– two to six seconds

NODDING– evidence of listening

ENCOURAGE– supportive messages

REFRAME– What’s missing?

SPACE– about three feet


The HRM is being reminded by Peter Urs Bender that the words EAR and HEAR are also part of the word HEART.

HEART provides an acronym for active listening;

  • Hush – stop talking and focus on the worker and the message.
  • Empathize – listen for feelings
  • Attend – look and listen
  • Reflect – restate, summarize, and paraphrase what you hear and see and experience
  • Trust – listen to more than the words.


For the HR practitioner, it is important to let the worker know that you are listening.

To be a good listener you have to be patient, flexible and open minded.

A good and purposeful listening requires concentration, effort, and active participation. It takes energy to listen and it takes more energy to undo the effects of not having listened.

There are many elements to active listening and as an HRM, it is your aim to achieve the ‘reflecting’ stage. This allows you to truly engage and involve yourself with the content so as to integrate the content with what you already know and how you think, and to increase your ability to share the knowledge with a wider audience (both management and workers).


Now the question is, how does an HRM become an active listener and make the transition through the degrees of active listening?

The first step is to be neutral; that is, there is a need to let go of any judgment that you  might have about the workers or the situation.

Most importantly, the HRM practitioner needs to be engaged from start to finish (figure 2). This is a hard task which  requires purposeful concentration and practice, however the time  invested   will obviously pay off.  It is also a skill you will not stop using your entire life.


Figure 2. The Active Listener Person (Team FME, 2013)


By engaging yourself throughout the meeting or conversation, the HRM needs to put his own concerns, attitudes and ideas at one side whilst listening to the worker. This takes away distractions in order to observe conscious and unconscious signs so that you can discern the true meaning from the worker’s words.


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