5 Ways To Be A Better Listener

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  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 

                                                                                                                                           – Stephen Covey

Listening skills are some of the most important skills you can master to be successful in your career, business and life. Whether you are in a business meeting, a job interview or a conversation with your partner, listening skills are crucial to build more trusting, meaningful and lasting relationships.

Here are five techniques you can use to be a better listener and make powerful conversations:

1. Be present.

Being present means you are giving your full attention to the person in front of you.  You can’t listen to anyone fully and at the same time do something else.

Have you had an experience that when you in a conversation with a colleague, your mind wanders to what you are going to say next , or the work email you need to send out?  Have you noticed that when you talk to your friend, instead of really understanding what was being said, you mind may also automatically enter an “evaluation mode” saying to yourself “this is right”, “that is unrealistic”?

When you are doing any of these, you are not fully present.  Research already shows that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. I would say a wandering mind will also make you an ineffective listener. Being present is not an easy thing to do in today’s world as our mind can be easily occupied many distractions. Next time before you going into an important conversation, try a simple breathing technique  or simply take few deep breaths to calm your mind and bring your focus to the present.

The more present you are, the person you are talking to are more likely to open to you, the better conversation and relationships you will be building.

2. Use silence

Have you noticed that “listen” and “silent” are made up with the same letters? When you listen to someone, allow some space for him or her to think. Too often, people listen to speak, rather than listen to understand.

You may notice that people sometimes pause and look away during a conversation. This is usually an indication that they are processing a thought and they do not want to be interrupted at that point. Unfortunately, for some people the pause presents the perfect opportunity to jump in the conversation. However, good listeners do not interrupt. Instead,  they hold the space and allow the speaker to finish the thoughts and talk.  Next time when you notice the pause, resist the temptation to jump in. Try to be comfortable with silence. You will be surprised how much more he/she has to say after the short pause.

When you receive a question, also use silence to think about it before responding. It will also make the person asking the question feel his/her questions are being carefully considered.

Silence does not mean, however, you are not in action. Try use positive feedback (e.g a smile or nod) to encourage the person to continue or speak more. This will also make them comfortable and feel that you are listening carefully.

3. Pay attention to non-verbal language

You’ve probably heard about the famous “7%, 38%, 55% “ communication rules first introduced by social psychologist Albert Mehrabian. In short, the research conducted by Mehrabian’s team suggested that when an average person communicate his feeling or attitude on things, 55% of the communication is composed in body language, 38% in tones of voice and 7% in words.

Whilst this rule does not apply in every context, it does show how important it is to notice non-verbal cues to get a full picture in a conversation. If you are on the telephone with somebody, pay special attention to change of tones or breathing patterns. These signs are likely to suggest a change of emotion state.

Whilst listening, you should also pay attention to your own body language and the message it conveys. Keep it open and relaxed as it will encourage the speaker to communicate more openly and comfortably with you.

4. Notice what is not being said

This one is not easy especially if you are meeting someone for the first time but can be worthwhile if you keep practicing.

Have you ever gone in a date where your date only talk about work? Have you ever entered into a client meeting where the client only talk about what their competitors are doing?

Pay attention to what is not being said, as there may lie the key information of the conversation.

5. Be curious and ask questions

One of the basic human needs is to be understood. People want to be heard and understood. Use your natural curiosity during a conversation to understand the other person’s emotion, thoughts and their view of the world.

Ask clarifying and open-ended questions and show that you are paying attention and trying to understand what is being said. Great questions always lead to great conversations. It could also deepen the level of conversation, which will naturally lead to more depth of your business or personal relationship.

Now it is your turn. What is your top tip to be a great listener? What difference have you noticed when you have a conversation with someone with good listening skills? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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With love,


(*image by Sebastiaan ter Burg) 
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3 Responses to “5 Ways To Be A Better Listener

  • I always find it difficult to be a good listener on the telephone. Very helpful tips and I will try to pay more attention to the tones / breathing patterns.

    • Hi Yi, glad you found it helpful! It is always a bit more challenging to sense the emotion without seeing someone’s face. But the more attention you pay, the easier it gets. Sometime when you are on the phone, it is also helpful to reflect back to check what you have heard. Let me know how it goes!

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