If you want to grow as a person, you should know how to be a better listener. Keep reading for a few tips that can improve your listening skills.
In this article:
- Observe How Often You Speak and Listen
- Understand the Difference Between Passive and Active Listening
- Improve Your Active Listening Skills
- Shift Your Mindset Into a Conversation Rather Than a Debate
- Show You’re Interested
- Focus on the Speaker and Avoid Multi-Tasking
- Clear Your Head Before Important Conversations
- Give a Second Before You Say Something
- If You’re Having Trouble Listening or Understanding, Let the Other Person Know
9 Ways on How to Be a Better Listener
1. Observe How Often You Speak and Listen
You may think you already listen to other people most of the time. However, people usually overestimate how often they listen and underestimate how often they talk.
Listening skills are one of the most important life skills we all need to work on. To know where you stand in your listening skills, figure out your talk-to-listen ratio.
While there are no rules on how to do this, just try to be more aware when you’re in a conversation. A good rule of thumb is a talk-to-listen ratio of 1:2. In simpler terms, listen more than you speak.
2. Understand the Difference Between Passive and Active Listening
What is passive listening? Passive listening is when you listen to someone, focusing just on their words, and not interrupting or contributing to the conversation. While this may seem like an ideal scenario for listening, this one-way communication doesn’t involve any questions or feedback that may help the listener understand the message.
What is active listening? Active listening refers to a two-way communication wherein the listener provides responses that show they understand what the speaker is saying. In this type of listening, the listener will reflect on what is being said and respond, whether by talking or gesturing.
Of course, if you want to learn how to be a better listener, you should cultivate active listening. Active listening helps you become a better friend and have better relationships compared to passive listening.
3. Improve Your Active Listening Skills
To start improving your active listening skills, here are a few dos and don’ts.
- Show interest in the conversation through body language or other signals. Some examples include saying “I agree” or “Interesting”, maintaining appropriate eye contact, and nodding your head when appropriate.
- Respond based on what you’ve learned so far, and ask questions if needed. You can respond to what the speaker said if you have something new to add to the conversation or confirm if your understanding is correct.
- Anticipate what they’re going to say next.
- Judge what they’re saying without asking clarifying questions.
- Avoid getting distracted while the other person is listening. For necessary interruptions, such as a phone call, acknowledge it and ask permission from the other person before taking it.
4. Shift Your Mindset Into a Conversation Rather Than a Debate
Whether consciously or unconsciously, people go into a conversation as if it’s a battle. Rather than looking at any social interaction as a win-lose situation, good listeners can turn any conversation into a positive social experience.
Simply put, a conversation should not be seen as a sword that cuts, but as a bridge that connects. Once you change the goal of a conversation into something that’s more win-win for everyone, you’ll be able to listen better and have better conversations.
5. Show You’re Interested
Motivate the speaker with visible signs of interest. Nothing makes a conversation more engaging than showing you’re interested.
Some ways to show this include maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, and showing body language that emphasizes interest. You can also do it verbally by responding to the speaker by asking questions, clarifying some points, or adding a new point to the conversation to keep it going.
6. Focus on the Speaker and Avoid Multi-Tasking
If you’re listening to someone, focus on the speaker and the moment. Don’t mentally think about your shopping list or what you’ll do later when someone’s speaking.
People can tell if someone’s not mentally present during a conversation and this can lead to a negative social interaction or a potential argument. Try to shut out other thoughts when someone’s talking to you.
7. Clear Your Head Before Important Conversations
This may not seem like the advice you’d typically hear about how to become a better listener, but hear us out. If your brain is exhausted or overwhelmed, it will be hard to listen and understand something.
If you want to improve your listening skills and become a better conversationalist, clear your mind before any important conversations that would require a lot of mental power.
For example, before you have an important work meeting, avoid waiting until the last minute to relax and move around. You can step out of the office and get some fresh air and walk around for a bit to refresh your mind.
8. Give a Second Before You Say Something
Don’t rush responding to someone, especially if you’re not ready. Also, unless you’re absolutely certain that you understood their points, avoid moving on because that could lead to misinterpretation that could cause a communication breakdown later on.
Before you move to the next topic, confirm with the other person if your understanding of what was just said matches their point-of-view or intention. You can do this by summarizing their main points using your own words.
Once you’ve gotten confirmation, you can then proceed to offer your take on things, or switch to a different topic. This ensures you’re both on the same page.
9. If You’re Having Trouble Listening or Understanding, Let the Other Person Know
If, for any reason, you’re having trouble understanding, let the other person know rather than forcing yourself to listen. Forcing yourself to listen to someone isn’t ideal, since you’ll likely not understand what they’re saying anyway since your mind is somewhere else.
A simple scenario is if the person is speaking too softly. While the solution may seem obvious, some people will just keep nodding along and not tell the person their concern.
Be honest. In the example above, ask the person to speak louder, or if they can’t, just move closer and let them know why.
Also, if you must go, be honest and tell the other person. They’d be able to tell from your body language (e.g. tapping fingers, constantly checking your watch or smartphone) if you’re in a rush and can’t talk to them.
Listening is a critical part of any social interaction. We hope these tips on how to be a better listener will help you improve your listening skills and have better conversations.
What are your other tips on how to be a better listener? Share them with us in the comments section below.