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How to Become a Better Listener

Updated on January 22, 2012

How to Listen Effectively

Good listeners are few and far between. Why is this? Everyone seems to want to talk about themselves, their problems, their lives, and their point of view. Most communication problems are caused by people simply not listening to each other. Not really hearing the other person's point of view.

If you want to win people over, have lots of friends and be truly loved and appreciated, it would not hurt to improve your listening skills. People like to be listened to. It makes them feel liked and validated. It also helps you to learn more. You will really hear both sides of the story, and will not miss any valuable information. The result is people will begin to genuinely like you. They will confide in you. You will have deeper, more intimate relationships with people.

So how do you become a better listener?

To ensure that you fully understand what is being said, try paraphrasing. Simply repeat back whatever point is being made. This will show that you have been listening. It helps eliminate miscommunication. And it helps you to remember what has been said. You can try to paraphrase each main point the person has said. But try not to just repeat back exactly what they say, like a parrot. Use your own words. Try starting with "so what you are saying is" or "in other words."

Listen with awareness. Don't just hear the words that are being said. Pay special attention to body language too. Do their facial expressions and gestures add up? If someone says they are feeling fine, but their voice cracks when they say it and their fists are clenched, there is more to the story. Dig deeper.

Let your body language show that you are interested. Maintain eye contact. Don't look around, look at the clock or check your text messages. Lean forward slightly and nod to show you are interested. Ask questions. Show that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Listen even when it is difficult. Sometimes people want to tell you things you don't want to hear. Their message may be offensive. They may even be rude or scream at you to get their point across. Whether its a rude customer or a relationship issue you're dealing with, screaming back rarely gets anything accomplished. Try to stay calm. Learn the message behind the anger. Try to listen with empathy. Realize that all people are just trying to trying to get through each day. Unfortunately, some people think that every conversation is an argument that they must win. This is their issue. You don't need to make it yours.

Listening with empathy can be very difficult. Help yourself by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Where is this person's pain coming from?
  2. What is he really asking for? Usually people are satisfied once they feel they have gotten their point across.
  3. What is he really feeling? Fear, anxiety or sadness often come through as anger, at least at first.

Get to the root of the issue and find something you can connect with. Listening calmly can usually diffuse the most toxic of situations. Remember, what most people really want is to feel that they have been heard.

The Top 8 Listening Mistakes People Make

Many people are not good listeners. They put their time in, only half listening to what you are saying. They try to appear interested until it is their turn to speak. And then it is all about them.

Now I will outline the most common blocks to good listening.

Some people are very judgemental. They can't help but to compare themselves to others to see how they measure up. They are always trying to be better than you.

Some people think they are mind readers. You are talking, and they are trying to figure out what you really mean. Or they are concerned with what you are thinking about them. Either way they are not listening to the words you are saying.

Some people use their "listening time" to mentally rehearse what they are going to say next. Maybe it is all about being funny. Or perhaps they are planning a zinger to win an argument.

Some people are always daydreaming. Their mind wanders off while you are trying to tell them something. They could be bored. Or it could be anxiety. Perhaps they want to escape and be somewhere else, even if it is only in their mind.

Then there are those people who constantly interrupt you. You are telling your story, and they have to butt in to tell an even bigger, even better, even funnier one.

Some folks are advice givers. They jump in to tell you what to do, or what you should have done, even if it is obvious.

Some are always quick to disagree with you. They always need to be right. And they need to tell you where have gone wrong.

And some are just the opposite. They will agree with any and every little thing you say. And if you change your mind, they will agree with that too. They seem to despise any kind of conflict, no matter how minor. The agree with you, but are they truly listening?

These listening blocks can be irritating. Not only that, they make communicating very difficult. Some of them must have sounded very familiar to you. We all know people who do these things. Annoying, right? The truth is that everyone makes these mistakes from time to time, even you! The good news is now that you are aware of your mistakes you can try to change your behavior.

Next time you are talking to someone, take a few seconds to think about what blocks you are using. Keep in mind that you may use different blocks with different people. Perhaps you argue with your husband, give your kids advice and agree with everything your boss says. Once you realize where you have gone wrong, you can try to become a better listener.

What listening mistake do you usually make?

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The books I consulted for this hub are:

  • How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen & Listen So Your Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • Messages: The Communication Skills Book by Martha Davis. Patrick Fanning and Matthew McKay
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie


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    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for your comments, guys, you both bring up some interesting points. I am glad you enjoyed my hub.

    • seekingpeace91 profile image

      seekingpeace91 6 years ago

      Great hub! I'm really interested in this subject, and like how you laid it out so well. The skills you are teaching also help the people we are listening to feel more comfortable sharing with us, including telling us where we might be wrong when we reflect back what we think we've heard. Also, I think it's important to ask permission if we are going to give our feedback or advice- the other person might just be wanting to vent, and not looking for our opinion! thanks again- voted up and useful!