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Lessons of Being a Good Listener

Updated on January 31, 2013

Lessons on Listening

Effective listening is important to communication.
Effective listening is important to communication. | Source

March is International Listening Awareness Month

Listening is something we do on a daily basis. But effective listening may be something we do on occasion. Listening is very important to the human connection to validate someone else and to create deep and lasting bonds with other people.

"The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. Listening shows we care. Caring about someone else is the greatest gift we can give each other. The skill of listening is a great gift you can give to someone else.

"The best way to understand people is to listen to them."
--Ralph Nichols

March is International Listening Awareness Month.

It is not that difficult to appreciate someone else. Here are some tips:

  • be a good listener
  • summarize what the other person is saying
  • recognize their genuine feelings
  • look at the person as a whole being
  • let them know their feelings are universal
  • empathize

Lessons of Being a Good Listener

It is important to be a good listener. How can someone feel valued if you are distracted by other things than paying attention to what they are saying. Here are some tips on how to be a good listener:

  • Be an active listener by paying attention to what they are saying and clarifying things they say.
  • Sharing by self disclosing, giving feedback, and interacting keeps the conversation going and everyone connected.
  • Using “I” statements, keeps everything on a personal and more intimate level
  • Make eye contact. Look at the person when they are talking so they know you are listening. It shows a sensitivity to the other person. But don’t stare at them either.
  • Sit or stand in a ‘listening position’. Make sure you are comfortable. Your body language reflects a lot about non verbal communication.
  • Face the person and look at how your body is positioned.
  • Nod your head at appropriate times

Summarize what the other person is saying.
It helps you, and it helps them. When you hear yourself say something it gives you greater understanding and increased memory about the statement.

When you summarize what the other person is saying, they feel like they have been heard and understood. A good way to summarize is by paraphrasing what you heard the other person say. You can use words like, “I hear what you are saying”, “In other words”, “Sounds like”, “Basically what you are saying is”.

By summarizing what they have said you are telling them you understand what they have just said. And if you got it wrong, it gives the speaker an opportunity to state what they are trying to say in a clearer way. It is especially helpful to reflect words that show feeling. Ask questions to gain a greater understanding.

Don’t be afraid to get more info. This shows you are listening and that you care enough to ask these questions.
Ask open ended questions like, “could you give me an example of …”. Questions that require a yes or no answer will usually end a conversation.

Recognizing the other person’s feelings, is an important aspect of being a good listener. When the other person is saying something and then stops or pauses, it is appropriate to say something at this time. Making a comment, will help validate what they have said.
It is important that you comments be in the same line with what the speaker has said. If you change the subject, it will make the person feel as though you are not really listening. If they ask you a question, answering it will help them know you have been listening. Silence can also be beneficial.

Sometimes we feel we need to fill the quiet with conversation, when it might not be wise to say anything at that moment.
Give feedback that shows you are interested in what they are saying. Share your opinions appropriately and wisely. Be nonjudgmental, supportive, and honest in the things you say. Stereotyping, judgments, criticism, and discrimination close off conversations in negative ways. Avoid making assumptions.

Look at the person as a whole being. Everyone comes with a past and the things they are experiencing are not isolated from all the things they have gone through and felt before. Also, a person’s behavior is a reflection of their psychological, physiological, and biological makeup. Consider all of these factors when they are talking so that you can better understand what may be going on within them.

Let them know their feelings are universal. People want to feel special, but they don’t want to feel different. Feeling different causes a person to feel isolated and alone. When you let them know that anyone else would probably feel as they do, given the situation, they won’t feel so alone. When you let them know there are other people that are going through what they are going through, they may find comfort in that. And these things let the speaker know they are understood.

Empathy and sympathy are important listening tools. By letting the other person know that you can understand what they are saying and feeling, they will know you are listening to them. Sometimes it is easy to empathize with someone else, because we can draw on our own experiences and relate better to what they are saying. Sometimes it can be difficult to be empathetic because we have such different experiences and we have nothing to draw from.
Sometimes it can be difficult to offer sympathy or empathy because at our core, we don’t agree with what they are saying. if this is the case, you can still listen with a sense of openness. You can still be a supportive person to them, not necessarily supporting what they are saying, but letting them know you will continue to be there for them. You can also take a neutral position when listening.

The Importance of Listening

Sometimes by trying to put yourself in the other person’s position, you might gain a greater understanding. It is also important not to be engulfed by their issues so much, that they become your issues too. Don’t internalize what another person is saying and try to rescue them either. Listening is a balancing act.

Be aware of your own limitations, your own opinions and biases, and be aware that your interpretations may not be accurate. It is also important to know that some of the things the other person may be saying are their interpretation and may have exaggerations and untruths to it, so be careful not to get sucked into what they are trying to tell you.

Some people may also be trying to manipulate you and it is important to be aware of this possibility too. So keep your distance by not getting involved, just learn to be a good listener and that will help the speaker tremendously.

Listening is a difficult skill. We are human, and can’t possibly hear everything, or hear it accurately. We only retain approximately 50% of what we hear immediately and about another 20% afterwards.


Do You Consider Yourself a Good Listener?

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Become a Better Listener

When you stop and really listen to the other person, you actually activate neurons in the brain and your entire body becomes engaged in the activity of listening. A good listener doesn’t just react, they absorb what the other person is saying.

Try not to argue, even if the conversation is tough for you. Listen to what they are saying, start where you agree and then move the discussion along the lines where they can help you understand their point better.

Your body language is extremely important. What do they look like when they are talking and what do you look like. The more you mirror their actions the more they will feel like you are listening and the more you will engage yourself in what they are saying.

Listening is an important acquired skill. It fosters communication and bonds us with other people. Listening expands our horizons, opens our world, and teaches us new things all the time.

There are so many distractions in this world, it can be easy not to listen. But we lose many things when we don’t listen. The bonds we create, the things we learn may last forever. The distractions are temporary and rarely enrich our lives like effective communication can.


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    • stephanieb27 profile image

      stephanieb27 4 years ago from United States

      I had to stop by and check out your hub on listening! :) I had no idea when I wrote my hub last month, that March is International Listening Awareness Month.....

    • KevinC9998 profile image

      KevinC9998 4 years ago

      I am trying very hard to be a more effective listener. It is difficult but I know how important it is. Thanks for the information. I wrote a similar hub on selective hearing. Kevin

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 4 years ago

      Hi Bill, Listening is a very important skill. There is a saying we are born with 2 ears and a mouth. We should listen twice as much as we talk.

    • andromida profile image

      syras mamun 4 years ago

      Great advice on listening position and non-verbal messages. Your hub should be included in the communication technique curriculum at every school.Why schools do not teach these techniques?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is a dying trait in society today. It is one of those things that I notice when I reflect back to older times. When did we lose the ability to listen? Why?

      Love this hub!