Becoming a good listener is one of those often-overlooked things that is one of the most important ingredients of any meaningful relationship.
Whether it’s a 35-year marriage or a casual sex, “friends with benefits” arrangement, there will often be times that if you don’t listen well, you will seriously damage the connection you’ve established, possibly without even realizing it until much later when the damage is hard to undo.
Top tips for becoming a good listener
Here are 7 keys for being a good listener and 3 action steps you can take right away to help improve your listening skills. I’ll also share a list of suggested reading for those looking for even more information.
1. Stay silent until they’re done speaking
When you’re trying to become a good listener, don’t speak while someone else is talking. Let them completely say what they have to say. Don’t interrupt them.
Although it’s rude to interrupt, it’s just as important to be aware that staying quiet will help you be perceived as interested and caring. More important, if you do interrupt, you’ll most likely miss the real meaning of what they are saying.
2. Give your full attention
It’s easy for our mind to wander when others are speaking. But, try to resist. Give the person your full and undistracted attention. N
ot only will they appreciate it, but you will save yourself some time by not having to ask them to repeat what they said. Plus, it’s a simple courtesy and a good way to show you care.
3. Wait to think about what you’ll say
Try not to think about how you are going to respond while the other person is talking. This takes some self-management to stop thinking about what you’ll say while they talk.
If you make the effort, however, you will find it becomes natural over time. Sometimes, repeating back a quick summary of what they said may help you more accurately understand. It can also be a good way to stop thinking about what you are going to say.
4. Check that you understand before you react or respond
People often have knee-jerk reactions when someone says something unexpected. This is understandable, but not always helpful to express it right away.
Try to absorb it all before reacting in any way. Make sure you fully understand what the person is saying and ask questions if you don’t. Then, after you have an understanding, you can respond.
5. Try to keep an open mind
We all talk with plenty of people who don’t hold the same values and beliefs as we do. There are reasons they feel the way they do.
When listening, try to keep an open mind. You don’t have to agree with everything someone else is saying. But, at least respect the fact that others have differing opinions. If everyone thought in the same way, life would get dull fast.
6. Don’t miss an opportunity to learn
The people we talk with are going to have information that we don’t. When you let them speak and open your mind, you may find that you can learn something. And, you will learn it much quicker if you are open to what they say and listen to absorb it.
Approach your listening with that goal in mind, i.e., to learn something new. Even if it’s someone you’ve been married to a long time, remember everyone changes and evolves over time. You never know what you might learn from someone else.
7. Focus on building the relationship
Listening builds relationships. When people find out you are a good listener, they will approach you more often. It’s attractive, and more people will want to be around you.
They will also let others know that you listen well, thus expand your network and relationships. The more people you have in your network, the more ability you’re able to connect and learn.
Action steps for becoming a good listener
If you’re interested in becoming a good listener
1. The next person you speak to, pause after they speak and briefly repeat a summary to them of what they said.
This may seem uncomfortable at first, but you will most likely find they are receptive to it. Then, you’ll see how easy it is to do.
You can use leading phrases like, “you feel that…,” or “what I think you’re saying is…,” etc. Then, follow those leading phrases with what they say. In the unlikely chance you notice they are getting annoyed with this type of interaction, you can back off a bit.
2. Speak to two people who you know don’t share the same values, beliefs or views as you.
This might be colleagues at work or people in your family. When speaking to them, try not to be argumentative. Instead, simply listen carefully and fully to what they are saying. Try to put yourself in their shoes to see why they feel the way they do.
3. Strike up a conversation with one or two unfamiliar people every week.
This may require you to break out of your comfort zone. It becomes easier with practice. Use the techniques in this article to listen carefully to what they’re saying.
Further reading about becoming a good listener
If you’d like to explore the topic of becoming a good listener more, here are some good books worth reading.
- Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston M.D.
- Active Listening: Improve Your Ability to Listen and Lead by Michael H. Hoppe
- The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships by Michael P. Nichols
- The Irresistible Introvert: Harness the Power of Quiet Charisma in a Loud World: by Michaela Chung
- How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Becoming a good listener will improve your relationships
It’s an under-rated skill that doesn’t seem very sexy. However, becoming a good listener will improve your relationships. While it may seem complicated at first, it becomes easy with practice.
When you become a good listener, you’ll be perceived as more caring, more attractive and more fun to be around.