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How to become a better listener

Posted on 3/28/2023, 1:33:37 PM

As humans, we have two ears and one mouth, but often we forget this and end up speaking more than listening. Listening is a vital skill that plays a crucial role in communication and building relationships with others. Whether it's in your personal or professional life, being a good listener can help you understand others better, build trust and respect, and even improve your problem-solving skills.

Here are some tips on how to become a better listener:

  • Give Your Full Attention

Giving your full attention means being fully present in the moment and actively listening to the speaker. This includes not just avoiding external distractions but also internal distractions, such as your own thoughts or emotions. Try to clear your mind and focus solely on the speaker's message.

Example: If you're having a conversation with a friend, put your phone away and avoid checking it during the conversation. If you're in a meeting at work, close your laptop and avoid checking your email or other notifications.

  • Be Patient

Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to listening. People may express themselves in different ways, and some may take longer to get their point across. Be patient and allow the speaker to finish speaking before responding. Interrupting them can make them feel disrespected or unheard.

Example: If your coworker is explaining a project to you, let them finish speaking before asking questions or sharing your own ideas. If your friend is telling you about a difficult situation they're going through, let them finish speaking before offering advice or support.

  • Don't Make Assumptions

Assumptions can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication. Instead, ask questions to clarify the speaker's message. Use open-ended questions that encourage the speaker to share more about their thoughts and feelings.

Example: If your partner seems upset but hasn't told you why, instead of assuming they're angry at you, ask open-ended questions such as "What's on your mind?" or "Can you tell me more about how you're feeling?"

  • Practice Empathy

Empathy is the ability to put oneself in another person's shoes and understand their feelings and perspectives. This requires active listening and paying attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues. When practicing empathy, try to imagine how the speaker feels and validate their emotions.

Example: If your friend is telling you about a difficult experience they had, try to imagine how you would feel if you were in their situation. Validate their emotions by saying things like "That sounds really tough" or "I can imagine how frustrating that must have been."

  • Ask Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are questions that require more than a simple "yes" or "no" response. They encourage the speaker to provide more detailed information and can help you understand their message more fully. Some examples of open-ended questions are:

  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • What do you think we should do about this situation?


  • Avoid Judgement

Judging someone can cause them to feel attacked or defensive, which can hinder communication. It's important to listen to the speaker's message without judging them. This means avoiding phrases such as "you're wrong" or "I don't agree with you" and instead focusing on the content of the message.

Example: If your friend has a different opinion than you on a political issue, avoid judging their beliefs and instead focus on understanding their perspective by asking questions such as "Can you explain why you feel that way?" or "What experiences led you to that conclusion?"

  • Reflect on What You Hear

Reflecting on what you hear can help you better understand the speaker's message and respond in a more meaningful way. You can do this by repeating back what you heard or summarizing the speaker's main points. This can also help to confirm your understanding and show the speaker that you are actively listening.

  • Practice Active Listening

Active listening is a technique that involves being fully present in the moment and demonstrating your engagement through nonverbal cues. This can include maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, and providing verbal cues such as "uh-huh" or "I see." Active listening can help build rapport and trust with the speaker, which can lead to more effective communication.

  • Take Notes

Taking notes during a conversation can help you remember important details and follow up on specific points later. This can also show the speaker that you value their input and are taking their message seriously. However, be sure to balance note-taking with active listening, so you don't miss any verbal or nonverbal cues.

  • Practice, Practice, Practice

Like any skill, becoming a better listener takes practice. Try to make a conscious effort to listen actively in all your conversations, whether they are with family, friends, or coworkers. Seek out feedback from others to help you improve and adjust your listening style as necessary.

  • Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings in the present moment. This can help you focus on the speaker's message and avoid distractions. Mindfulness can also help you regulate your own emotions and reactions, which can improve communication.

Example: Before a meeting or conversation, take a few deep breaths and focus on the present moment. Avoid thinking about other tasks or distractions and instead focus on the speaker's message.

  • Show Genuine Interest

Showing genuine interest in the speaker's message can encourage them to open up and share more. This can help to build trust and strengthen relationships. To show genuine interest, try to engage with the speaker by asking questions or offering supportive comments.

Example: If your friend is telling you about a new hobby they've started, ask questions about their experience and show interest in their progress. Avoid distractions and give them your full attention.

  • Be Mindful of Your Body Language

Body language can communicate a lot about how you feel and how you're receiving the speaker's message. To show that you are actively listening, try to maintain eye contact, avoid crossing your arms, and lean in slightly towards the speaker. This can help to convey that you are engaged and interested in what they have to say.

Example: If your coworker is giving a presentation, try to maintain eye contact and avoid looking at your phone or other distractions. Nod your head or offer other nonverbal cues to show that you are engaged.

In conclusion, becoming a better listener takes time, effort, and practice. However, the benefits of effective listening are numerous, including better communication, stronger relationships, and improved problem-solving skills. By implementing these tips and techniques, you can become a better listener and reap the rewards of improved communication.

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