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How to Listen: Nine Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills

Updated on June 26, 2013

Every relationship that you have ever had in your entire life can be easily defined by how well the lines of communication are maintained. Humans are social creatures that require communication, or the transfer of information between individuals, to be able to effectively function in society. No matter what type of relationship that you find yourself in, most people would agree that having good communication skills is the key to making them successful and long lasting. Since at least half of every conversation is listening, it would be wise to invest some time into thinking about your ability to listen.

The Art of Listening

Did you know that just because people are born with the ability to hear doesn’t mean that they actually have the ability to listen? That’s right! Although it’s associated with the ability to hear, listening is a skill that people must learn. Unfortunately since formal training in art of listening is typically not given to young learners, most people educate themselves on the subject by picking up on the mannerisms and habits of the influential people around them. However, this usually means that many important skills are left out of the discussion when it comes to learning how to listen.

In the context of interpersonal communication, true listening requires that the listener use more than just their ears to participate in a conversion. The listener must incorporate such things as body language, facial expressions, and eye contact into their skill set to be able to effectively communicate with others. This is called active listening.

So if listening is a skill that can be learned and improved, how can you get better at it? What are some things that can be done to improve your listening ability, and thus your ability to effectively communicate with others? Here are some ways to improve your listening ability that you can implement into your next conversation. Believe me, the results of having better listening skills are impressive; you should notice differences in all of your relationships right away.


Tip # 1: Be Calm When Listening

If you have ever been involved in a heated argument, then you know very well what I am talking about. When tension is high and emotions are strong, people tend to have an extremely difficult time listening to each other. Nothing is ever accomplished in an emotionally charged yelling match. Staying calm will help to ensure that you can receive, process, and respond to all of the information that is being transmitted to you. This is why it sometimes helps to step away from a situation to "cool off" before you attempt to actually resolve the issues that you may be having.

Tip # 2: Have an Open Mind

When you start a conversion, having an open mind will enable you to listen with your mind as well as your ears. Like an open window, an open mind allows information to easily enter the brain. Don't allow selective hearing or a predisposition about a subject control the conversation. Just try to relax and let your ears and brain do the listening while the speaker does the talking.

Tip# 3: Listen for the Entire Message

True listening is accomplished when the speaker's entire message is heard and understood. Partial attentiveness or cutting the conversion short will only serve to skew the speaker's message. I bet most of you can think of several bad situations that could have been prevented or easily resolved just by allowing the speaker to speak and be heard. So have some patience and allow some time for the speaker to say what's on their mind. This will also allow you to process the speaker's entire message and helps to avoid problems when it's your turn to speak.

Tip# 4: Resist the Temptation to Respond Right Away

If you respond to someone's statement quickly, it shows that you haven't been paying attention to them. This is because it shows that you have been formulating your response while the speaker is speaking. It's difficult to listen and understand someone else when your mind is focused on the next thing that you want to say. Remember, your words and feelings are just as important as the person's with whom you are speaking with.


Tip# 5: Tune Out Distractions

There is nothing worse than trying to tell someone something important only to have them look up from their computer screen to say "I'm sorry, can you repeat that?" Distractions of just about any kind can turn a great conversation into a bad one in just a matter of moments. If your attention is easily diverted, you can try a number of things to tune out distractions. The first thing you can do is try to focus your eyes on the speaker's face. This forces your mind to pay attention to your subject. If you're finding it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try repeating their words mentally as they say them.

Tip# 6: Don't Get Hung up on the Speaker's Delivery

Getting hung up someone's accent, tone of voice, or stage presence will prevent you from hearing the speaker's message. These minor distractions should not be allowed to overtake your ability to listen, understand, respond , or otherwise have a great conversation. Instead of allowing yourself to get distracted, try focusing on your body language and the words that the speaker is saying.

Tip# 7: Maintain Eye Contact

Always focus your eyes on the person that you are listening too. Besides helping you tune out distractions, this enables you to listen more intently while also letting the speaker know that you are paying attention to them. By maintaining eye contact you are letting the speaker know that you care about what they are saying and that they have your full and undivided attention.

Tip# 8: Show That You are Listening

Just staring intently at your speaker is not going to let them know that you are listening to them. You need to provide the speaker with some feedback to ensure that they know that they are being heard. Simple things such as occasional nodding and subtle variations in your facial expressions will provide much of the positive feedback that they need. It also helps to encourage the speaker to continue speaker by telling them that you understand what they are saying.

Tip# 9: Become Self Aware

This last tip is probably the most important one to remember. To become a good active listener you need to become fully aware of yourself during a conversation. Being self aware means that you are making a conscious effort to both hear and understand the words the speaker is saying as well being mindful of your body language and mannerisms. While implementing tips #1 through #8 requires some level of self awareness to successfully accomplish, your ultimate goal should be to become fully aware of everything that is happening during a conversation.


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    • Brinafr3sh profile image

      Brinafr3sh 6 years ago from West Coast, United States

      Hi, Very well written Hub. It's great when people are 'quick to listen and slow to speak.' Thanks.

    • CWanamaker profile image

      CWanamaker 6 years ago from Arizona

      Alocsin - Eye contact does make the top of the list. I am still shocked by how many people I meet that don't know this simple technique.

    • ansuyo profile image

      ansuyo 6 years ago from Cincy area of Ohio

      This is a difficult thing to learn, and no, it is seldom taught to the young. I have a granddaughter who is constantly talking - even if others are talking. Your article has helped me formulate a plan for helping her learn to listen in some ways I hadn't thought of before. Thank you,

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Excellent tips since I'm sometimes accused of not listening. I think maintaining eye contact is most important. Voting this Up and Useful.