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LEAP into Better Conversations: A 4-Step Guide to Enhance Listening Skills

Navigating conversations can be a challenge, particularly for individuals with cognitive and communication difficulties resulting from conditions such as strokes, concussions, brain injuries, or other neurological disorders that impact cognitive-communication abilities. These challenges can make it hard to process, remember, and use information in conversation.

Following conversations may be hard due to a range of underlying cognitive issues (or a combination of them!), such as:

  • Focusing attention on what is being said

  • Shifting attention from one speaker to another

  • Understanding what's being said

  • Remembering what you want to say

  • Remembering what has already been said

This can lead to issues remembering what has been said or misunderstandings. Here is where LEAP comes in!

The LEAP Method

LEAP comprises of four strategies designed to enhance understanding, facilitate meaningful conversations, and foster deeper connections.

L: Listening Actively

Active listening is about fully engaging in the conversation beyond just hearing the spoken words. It requires attention and participation. For instance, some may find that maintaining eye contact and nodding along helps to engage, while for others, eye contact can actually hinder their ability to focus on what's being said. Actively paying attention and listening looks different for everyone! The key is to identify and embrace what works best for you.

E: Eliminate Distractions

Environmental noise or visual distractions can substantially hinder your ability to follow a conversation. You might find it particularly challenging in noisy environments or when multiple conversations are taking place at once. Simple changes, like moving to a quieter space or facing away from a busy crowd, can significantly improve your ability to concentrate.

Don't overlook the power of directly asking for what you need to engage more fully in a conversation. Whether it means turning off background music during meals, dimming the lights, or choosing to sit facing a wall rather than a busy restaurant, adapting your environment to suit your preferences can make a significant difference.

Additionally, it's important to recognize that distractions aren't just external. Internal distractions such as anxiety, pain, and fatigue also play a significant role in diminishing our focus and ability to follow along in conversations. Addressing these internal challenges is just as critical as managing the external ones.

A: Ask Questions & Advocate

Not sure you've completely understood? Ask questions to clarify your understanding and avoid any misunderstandings! It also shows the listener that you're actively involved and enhances your engagement.

It's also extremely important to advocate for what you need - whether that means requesting the speaker to slow down, repeat what they've said, or explain things differently. Don't be afraid to share ways that your conversational partner can support you.

P: Paraphrase

After someone shares new information, try repeating it back in your own words. Paraphrasing serves a dual purpose: it confirms your understanding and reinforces the information in your member.

For example:

"We've got that big event next week, there's a lot to sort out. We'll need to get the final orders in before the end of the week. The guest list needs to be done before that, probably midweek. It's key that we get everything else ready on time."

"Oh, so you're saying we need the guest list finalized by Wednesday?"

Paraphrasing helps to confirm our understanding and helps us to remember it.

That's it! That's LEAP.

Listen Actively

Eliminate Distraction

Ask Questions & Advocate


These steps are simple but effective in promoting better attention and understanding to enhance conversational skills. I invite you to try these strategies in your daily interactions and share your experiences and any obstacles you've overcome in the comments below.

If you are a speech-language pathologist and are interesting in supporting your clients using the LEAP strategy, check out our resource page for our LEAP handout.

If you or a love one is having difficulty with cognition or communication, we may be able to help! Contact us today at to learn more. Servicing all individuals in Ontario through teletherapy and in person in Etobicoke, West Toronto, and Mississauga.

Keep on connecting,


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