Receptionists Training: Listening Skills


Being a good listener is your starting point for being a good receptionist, but there are “skills” to listening that goes beyond just lending an ear and making sympathetic noises when someone points out their troubles.

We should try to listen ‘actively’ so that the person feels that we are with them and are trying hard to understand their story and how they feel. We do not have to be trained as counsellors or to be able to use listening skills but we do need to be aware that – like all skills they need to be practiced. They are different from conversation skills and are harder to perfect.

Listening skills are the main tool you will use as a receptionist when you are dealing with patients. Whatever you think of your abilities as a listener you should always be assessing how you work, finding weakness in your approach and trying to improve on them.


You can get clues about others’ attitudes and understand their point of view better, even if you do not like them or agree with them.


You motivate others to continue talking and give you as much information as they can – without too much effort – this will help you reach the right decision quickly and save time.


People appreciate your interest in what they have to say, and are likely to work better with you. This works well when someone might be making a complaint.


This works both ways and can often get a better result.

You might be prevented from listening well by your own views or by other distractions. To overcome this try to:

  • Put aside thought of what you are going to say next
  • Avoid interrupting
  • Resist distraction
  • Face the speaker, so you both see and hear each other
  • As for clarification where you do not understand the other person
  • Focus on the main points only – do not get side tracked onto another issue
  • Always make brief notes (key words ie dates, times, names, nature of conversation)
  • Prioritise – if you are in hurry, if appropriate postpone to a time when you can give the situation your full-time (this might be a staff issue if you are a manager or team leader) If you cannot postpone make sure someone will deal with the situation – but ensure that they are aware of the situation. Advise the person you are dealing with knows that you have passed it on to someone else.
  • Use encouraging language (“I was interested in your point………”)
  • As for clarification (“could you give me an example of that”)
  • Paraphrase (“you said…….”)
  • Do not interrupt – let the other person have their say.
  • Do not undermine other people.


The patient has come expecting:

  • A non-judgemental and supportive response to the issues they want to discuss.
  • A supportive environment whatever their issue or the decisions they take to resolve it.
  • To feel supported in an open atmosphere – this may be the first time they have been open and they may well be frightened or anxious about speaking to someone


  • Give individual attention
  • Repress emotional responses
  • Pay attention to non verbal messages
  • Notice body language
  • Do not pre-judge – listen to what the other person is saying, not what you think he /she is going to say. Give them time to finish.
  • Do not pre-formulate your reply – wait until the patient has finished before you reply. Often we are thinking of a reply and do not hear everything the other person has to say.
  • Focus on the important issues – concentrate on the main messages, do not get involved on trivial issues.
  • Test your understanding – check out your understanding by paraphrasing eg “what you are saying is……………..”
  • Respond to feelings – a message has both content and feelings. It is vital to understand feelings behind the message and respond to them, rather than only the content.
  • Give
  • paraphrase
  • Check for understanding

And remember – treat the person in front of you as you would want to be treated if it was you standing there in their shoes.