How To Be Good At Listening
Question: Do you think you are a good listener? I am sure most of us would say “yes!” to that question… I mean, how hard can it be? Since we were young, we have known that it is important to be a good listener.
So we all agree- we think that we’re great listeners, right?
But when was the last time you paid attention to how you listen? Reflecting on our listening habits can be eye-opening and help us become more aware of our communication skills.
Frankly, most of us are terrible at listening in our most important relationships! Thank God that Google doesn’t give our spouses the chance to rate our ability to listen! Lets be honest, most of us would deserve a one star rating!
Listening is an important skill to have, both in our personal and professional lives. It’s something that we often take for granted, but it’s actually an incredibly valuable asset. Having the ability to actively listen to what someone has to say can make a huge difference in relationships, both at home and at work.
Active Listening In A Relationship Is Key
Want to have a happy and healthy romantic relationship? Learn to really listen to your spouse. Unfortunately, many of us forget (or don’t make time) to listen to our romantic partners. While it can be hard to stay present when listening in a conversation – especially if you’re tired or stressed – it’s important to recognize that relationships thrive when both parties feel heard and respected.
When you don’t listen to your partner, it can leave them feeling unheard, disrespected and unloved. Our partners are counting on us to feel safety and trust in our relationship. When we are not good listeners, we are not meeting those important needs. Honestly, when core needs like trust and safety go unmet, the relationship is in a danger zone!
The Importance Of Listening Skills
Good listening skills can help us to understand others better, build stronger relationships, and even resolve conflicts. It’s not always easy to do, but with a few simple steps, you can become a better listener. Active listening in relationships can help us to understand our partner’s needs and feelings, and it can also help us to be more compassionate and understanding.
By taking the time to pay attention to what someone is saying, we can learn a lot about them and how they think. Listening is an essential part of communication, and it’s something that can be improved with practice. With a few simple tips and tricks, anyone can become a better listener.
The truth is that as we grow older, unfortunately, it can be easy to lose the ability for being an effective listener. It is also true that the longer we are married, the less likely we are to be a good listener. The busier our lives are, the less likely we are to seek a deeper understanding of our spouse.
It never hurts to take time for listening skills tune-up! Everyone wants healthier relationships, am I right? Learning to be a better listener is the number one safeguard for romantic relationships.
4 Signs You Are A Terrible Listener
- Do you tend to interrupt and finish people’s sentences?
- Do you find yourself getting distracted easily?
- Are you waiting for the other person to pause so you can jump into the conversation as soon as they take a breath?
- Or the worst thing ever, do you pick up your phone and start tapping the screen while someone is speaking to you??
Why Am I Not A Good Listener?
Let’s be honest, many of us are so saturated that actually listening to someone else seems unthinkable. For many of us, there is a sense of daily overwhelm, we feel like a prisoner of the endless social media parade, the doom and gloom news cycle, and the after-effects of a global pandemic.
Sometimes we feel like we can’t bear one more ounce of anxiety, fear, or stress. We find it difficult to manage our own emotions. It can be overwhelming to give time and attention to listen to our children and spouses to share their feelings as well.
Somedays we feel like we can’t handle one more moment of distress and anxiety.
I get it. We have been stretched to our limits in many ways and as a result, we are not great at listening. The good news is, with some simple suggestions, you can upgrade your listening skills.
I have seven easy tips for learning to be a better listener. We all have people in our lives that need support during times of stress and uncertainty. And each one of us needs the gift of listening as well. As mental health issues become more prevalent, now is a great time to learn how to listen supportively.
How To Be A Good Listener
7 simple ways to be a better listener
1. Practice silence– I mean this seems obvious, but stay with me! Of course, we need to be silent when we are listening. But the reality is so many of us are lazy listeners, preparing our response for when it is our turn to speak. We fail to listen with intentional silence. This listening skill will be reflected in your body as you listen carefully to the other person.
Person is done speaking, and you sit in silence. Yup. Total quiet. No response for at least three seconds. Count silently in your head if you need to, it does help to slow you down. This is helpful for the talker to finalize thoughts and the intentional silence is critical for the listener to really absorb the things that are being shared.
2. Listening face– Find a facial pose that is neutral and friendly. It’s true, some of us have to work on resting bitch face. I tend to furrow my brow and look concerned when I am actively listening (I am working on making adjustments!)
Facial expressions can help an anxious person feel safe if you are relaxed and open in your features. Do your best to be neutral and not super reactive in your expressions. It might feel silly, but practice your open, friendly “face” in the mirror! Like any skill, it needs some time and attention.
Good Listeners Have Friendly Faces
Many people “read” someone’s face and make assumptions. Since we were children, we learned to read facial expressions as a clue to what might come next. Becoming a better listener might mean you need to work on your listening face to appear open and compassionate to the speaker.
Show that you are engaged by using verbal or nonverbal cues such as nodding, smiling, or making comments to indicate that you are listening carefully
3. Choose a generic and careful short response- Things like: mmm, okay or I’m with you. There is research based reasons behind the short, singular-word response in therapy sessions. Choosing the right word(s) for different situations is an interesting study, but for our purposes, let’s pick something simple and attentive. Words like “wow” can be alarming to the other person, and something like “interesting” might make them feel like a specimen. I really like the phrase – I’m with you.
Or you could the phrase “gotcha’- I have been hearing it more frequently and it has a nice casual sound to it.
Be aware of your facial expressions as you talk via video/Zoom. Sometimes our concentration face can look angry or frustrated without us being aware of it!
More Ideas To Improve Your Listening Skills
4. Practice Self-Awareness – Remain mindful of your thoughts and emotions while in conversations to stay focused.
You know those moments when you’re talking to someone, but your thoughts are all over the place? Your mind’s racing, your emotions are pinballing throughout your body, and you can barely stay focused on the conversation at hand. It’s tough, but practicing self-awareness can help you reign in those mental gymnastics.
Mindfulness Benefits Your Listening Ability
When you remain mindful of your thoughts and emotions during conversations, you’re not only staying present and in the moment with the other person, but you’re also keeping yourself centered.
It’s all about being engaged and aware, and knowing when to redirect your focus back to the chat. You’d be surprised how much more you can get out of a conversation when you’re tuned in and mindful.
5. Eliminate Distractions – Turn off digital devices and avoid multi-tasking when having a conversation. Nothing says “you don’t matter to me” more than looking at your phone when someone is talking!
FACT: Technology is everywhere these days. It seems like it’s almost impossible to go anywhere without seeing someone glued to their phone or tablet.
While these devices are helpful and entertaining, they can also be major distractions. That’s why it’s important to practice some self-control and turn off our gadgets when we’re having a conversation with someone.
Stop Looking At Your Phone!
Don’t be tempted to try and sneak a quick glance at your screen, or respond to that urgent message. Doing that can really take away from the quality of your conversation. Embrace the power of undivided attention and give the people we’re chatting with the respect and focus they deserve!
If you realize that you are not listening to your partner, it’s important to apologize for the interruption and take a step back to reset the conversation. Explain why you’re sorry (e.g., “I’m sorry I wasn’t paying attention”) and make sure that your partner knows they can continue speaking without any fear of judgment or interruption.
6. Ask Clarifying Questions – Ask open-ended questions to gain a deeper understanding of what the other person is saying.
Picture this: You’re in a conversation with someone, trying to understand their position, but you’re not quite getting it. Rather than nodding politely and pretending you understand, why not try asking some clarifying questions?
It can make a world of difference, helping you to gain a deeper understanding of the topic at hand. The key is to ask open-ended questions that encourage the other person to share more about their perspective. So go ahead, don’t be afraid to ask those tough questions – it’s the best way to really get to the heart of the matter.
7. Respectfully pause before responding and allow the other person to finish their thoughts.
How many times have you been in a conversation when you just couldn’t wait for the other person to finish their sentence so you could jump in with your own thoughts? It happens to all of us! But here’s the thing: interrupting someone can make them feel unheard and unimportant.
That’s why it’s important to listen without interrupting. Respectfully pausing before responding and allowing the other person to finish their thoughts can make a world of difference in how they perceive the conversation.
You might actually learn something from what they have to say! So next time you find yourself getting antsy to jump in, take a deep breath and let the other person have their say. You just might surprise yourself.
Listening is an essential skill for any relationship. Working on being a better listener isn’t a one-time job; rather, it requires practice and patience. The more you reflect on your listening habits and pay attention to conversations, the easier it gets.
Good listening builds trust and strengthens intimacy in relationships; it helps foster a greater understanding of one another, and can even help you get to the root of any hurt that your partner may be feeling. So take some time to listen – both actively and attentively – and invest in building a healthy, trusting relationship with your partner.
Remember to practice self-awareness, eliminate distractions, ask clarifying questions, listen without interrupting, and show that you are engaged in conversations with verbal or nonverbal cues. With these tips in mind, your relationships will benefit from your improved listening skills!
Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.