How to Listen Like

How to listen like Michael B. Jordan

October 29, 2021

The box office star gets top billing for listening


  • Michael B. Jordan is having a moment as an actor, producer, director, and sexy commercial star.
  • How the key to being a successful actor is to be a good listener.
  • Tips to act on for being a better listener.

Alexa, turn on the sprinklers. Alexa, dim the lights. Alexa, add bath oils to my shopping list. Whatever the command, Michael B. Jordan is listening. He is cheekily following directions and getting wet, taking off his shirt, and making a list. 

Every year during the Super Bowl, Amazon Alexa runs a commercial and gives the artificial intelligence voice assistant a new persona. It’s been Gordon Ramsay, Rebel Wilson, Cardi B, and now Jordan. And America is swooning over his sultry spot.

But Jordan is more than just a set of gorgeous abs. He is a critically acclaimed film and TV actor with roles in Fruitvale Station, Black Panther, and Creed. He’s also a producer and will be making his directorial debut with Creed III. Jordan has received many accolades for his acting and for other things he excels at like, well, those abs for People’s Sexiest Man Alive.

Most acting coaches will tell you that one of the keys to being a good actor is to also be a good listener. Listening and reacting are usually two of the main things that casting directors look for in actors at auditions. That’s because the most important lines in a script aren’t the ones the actor is saying, but the ones they are hearing and responding to from their scene partner. 

Casting director Michael Shurtleff put it this way, “Listening is not merely hearing, it is receiving the message that is being sent to you. Listening is reacting. Listening is being affected by what you hear. Listening is letting it land before you react. Listening is letting your reaction make a difference. Listening is active.”

Friday Night Lights vince
Credit: Bill Records/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

How Jordan is a good listener as an actor on a TV series

In 2009, Jordan was cast to play star quarterback Vince Howard in the Emmy-winning TV series Friday Night Lights. The drama centers on the players and coach of a high-school football team in Dillon, Texas, where football is near religion. Vince was a troubled and underachieving student but with the help of Coach Taylor he eventually became the team’s leader on their way to a state championship.

Kyle Chandler played Coach Taylor. Jordan shared how listening played a part in acting with Chandler, "Working with him in the scene was like playing tennis. You work with really talented actors, I think they make other actors look really, really good. He definitely helped me out a lot, stepped up my game. Just like the volleying back and forth. Listening. He taught me how to listen very well and reacting. There's a lot of improv. And to be able to do that on the spot you really have to be in tune with what the other person is saying instead of just waiting for your cue line or waiting for a word for you to deliver your next line."


When you’re a coach having a conversation with your sports team.

  • Many coaches use cliché language such as "be aggressive" or "focus more.” Players are apt to listen better to clearer instruction so instead of "be more confident” try "have some belief in yourself.”
  • Adjust your speaking style to each of your players. What works for one person could be detrimental to another so figure out the best approach for each of them.

Michael B. Jordan participates in the Hollywood talent agencies march to support Black Lives Matter protests on June 06, 2020 in Beverly Hills
Credit: Rich Fury/Getty

How Jordan is a good listener as an actor supporting cast and crew

Jordan was listening to two specific words that Frances McDormand said in her acceptance speech for best actress at the 2018 Academy Awards. McDormand stated, “I have two words for you — inclusion rider.” The inclusion rider allows actors, along with others in the industry, to put a clause in their contracts that stipulates diversity in the hiring of cast and crew. This point inspired Jordan and, “I was like, ‘Oh! So, there’s something in writing I can put in place to make sure our cast and crew is a reflection of the world I live in, and is diverse?’” 

Outlier Society Productions is Jordan’s production company that he founded in 2016. Within a month of McDormand’s speech, he insisted his company adopt inclusion riders. He also pushed Warner Bros, who he had worked with on his hits Creed and Creed II, to use an inclusion rider. Now all companies under Warner Media have the policy. So not only is Jordan listening for ways to improve the film industry but he’s also getting others to listen and take action too.


When you’re pushing for a policy change at your company.

  • ssemble a team of people who are involved with the topic of the policy. Gather the thoughts, suggestions, and ideas of your team by actively listening to what they have to say.
  • When you present the new policy to management, include your team’s feedback to show that there is support for the change and the reasons behind it.

ABC's "All My Children" - Michael B. Jordan
Credit: Virginia Sherwood/Walt Disney Television via Getty

How Jordan is a good listener as an actor on a soap opera

Jordan has worked with some of the greatest actors of our time. He’s now filming Journal for Jordan and is being directed by Denzel Washington. Jordan tries to listen and learn everything he can on film sets and, “Being directed by the GOAT — Denzel, himself — and being able to work with a very talented cast … I’m getting a masterclass and a crazy education on character development, directing, and producing. I'm a sponge right now, just soaking it up.”

But believe it or not, he credits a soap opera with shaping his intense work ethic and where he listened a lot. Jordan says, “Honestly, soaps are great training. You’re doing 90-plus pages a day. It was my acting class, where I built my foundation for showing up and being professional.” In 2003, Jordan played the character Reggie Montgomery as a series regular on the soap opera All My Children. And in a little known fact, he took over the role from his Black Panther co-star Chadwick Bosman who had been fired after only one week on the job for complaining about the stereotypical nature of the part. 


When you’re a student learning from the teacher in class.

  • It helps to sit in the first few rows up front and the rows down the middle. By being front and center, it forces you to focus on what the teacher is saying and not let your mind wander.
  • Become a good note taker by listening for the tone of the teacher’s voice and watching body language to understand what the most important points are.

Jordan was recently asked what he learned about himself during the pandemic. He shared how listening to himself helped him grow, “… I’ve been able to get back to the basics and the bare necessities of things. You’re still able to cope and listen to your voice by being still and letting your intuition and gut lead the way. It really allowed me to grow personally and to have more patience. I grew up a lot last year…”

And as Jordan continues to listen to himself, his career will only continue to grow more and more. We wonder what will be next for him … let’s go ask Alexa. 

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