How To Be a Better Listener – 10 Ways that Guarantee Results

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Developing Your Listening Skills Is Critical For Personal Growth

Being a good listener is one of the most important skills you can develop for success in your career and relationships.

Furthermore, many interpersonal issues and misunderstandings stem from poor listening habits. However, when you actively listen, you ensure clear communication, deepen your connections with others, and absorb valuable information that can give you an advantage in life.

Remember this key point: knowledge is power. We learn very little when talking. However, by listening carefully, a world of knowledge is open to you and me!

10 Ways To Be A Better Listener

Here are 10 proven ways to sharpen your active listening abilities and become a better listener.

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1. Minimize Distractions

We are all faced with daily distractions, including phones, computers, TVs, and social media. During a meaningful conversation, minimize external distractions by silencing devices and focusing solely on the speaker.

For example, silence your smartphone before an important meeting or conversation and put it away from sight.

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2. Maintain Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact is a simple yet powerful way to make the speaker feel heard and valued. Look at the speaker while they talk without staring or looking away too frequently.

A natural visual connection shows you are fully present and attentive to what is being said. Additionally, you can nod and use facial expressions to reinforce that you are tracking along.

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3. Ask Clarifying Questions

One of the most active ways to listen is to ask questions that dig deeper for clarification and additional details. Asking questions shows engagement and allows you to understand the speaker’s message better.

For instance, you can ask, “Will you please explain what you mean by that point?” or “Can you give me an example of what you are talking about so I can better understand?”

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4. Summarize and Repeat Back

Periodically summarizing and repeating key points is an excellent way to confirm your understanding. Doing so allows the speaker to clarify if you are missing something.

Perhaps you could say, “Let me summarize what I’m hearing to ensure I understand correctly.”

Summarizing is one of my favorite tips. I find it especially useful when I am taking instructions from the speaker and need to ingrain what they are saying in my mind for future reference.

Summarizing is also handy when listening to someone with a less direct, roundabout speaking style. You summarize the points because the speaker isn’t capable of doing so.

5. Read Body Language

Active listeners are tuned to the speaker’s nonverbal signals and body language. Facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice convey a wealth of underlying meaning and emotion.

Observing when body language aligns with or contradicts spoken words will enhance your understanding. Most importantly, conflicting body language is a powerful sign when assessing a speaker’s credibility or lack thereof.

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6. Don’t Judge or Interrupt

Resist the urge to get mentally ahead of the speaker by judging, criticizing, or jumping in with your thoughts. Stay present and give your complete attention without interrupting until the person has finished their point.

You wouldn’t want someone to cut you off and talk over you. So, extend the same courtesy.

Look for natural pauses in the speaker’s flow. Then and only then, ask questions or seek clarification.

7. Show Empathy And Understanding

Look for opportunities to empathize with what the speaker is saying or feeling, not just understand the literal words.

Imagine yourself in their shoes and connect with their thought process. Seek to mirror their emotions.

For example, short affirmations like “I understand” or “That makes sense to me” validate the speaker’s perspective and encourage them to offer more.

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8. Don’t Formulate Your Response First

One of the most common pitfalls of poor listening is formulating your response while the other person is still speaking. Doing this can cause you to miss essential context and details.

Train yourself to absorb the information thoroughly before planning your reply.

This is one of my pet peeves. I have a friend who is a horrible listener.

When I speak to him, I can tell he’s thinking about what he will say when he gets a chance. When his chance comes, he hijacks the conversation with his opinions, and I’m left disinterested in sharing my thoughts.

9. Remove Preconceptions

Try to clear your mind of preconceived notions, judgments, or biases before listening to someone’s viewpoint. You won’t learn anything by clinging to your preexisting opinions.

Seek to understand before being understood yourself. Open yourself up to new information and perspectives.

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10. Take Notes (When Appropriate)

Taking notes is helpful for more extended conversations or any time you want to comprehend and retain fully. Writing forces you to concentrate, synthesize thoughts, and absorb critical concepts.

Conversely, don’t let note-taking cause you to lose eye contact or become a distraction. When this is the case, listen carefully, summarize, and repeat to aid retention. Take notes after the conversation is finished.

Developing Your Listening Skills – Wrap-Up

Active listening is something you can practice each day.

To be a better listener, stay present and in the moment. Increase your discipline to hold your ideas and biases to yourself. Be open to new information and the power it provides.

The payoff to you is immense: better relationships, mutual understanding, and valuable insights that will further your personal and professional growth. Most importantly, good listeners find that others are naturally drawn to them as friends, leaders, and confidants.

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Author Bio: Tom Scott founded the consulting and coaching firm Dividends Diversify, LLC. He leverages his expertise and decades of experience in goal setting, relocation assistance, and investing for long-term wealth to help clients reach their full potential.

10 Ways To Become A Better Listener