7 Tips to Improve Your Listening Skills

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

1. Listen more than you speak.

We all desire to feel that we are being not only heard but also understood. Communication is our primary means of building relationships and connecting with those around us.

Remember we were given two ears and one mouth. We should spend twice as much time listening than we do speaking.

2. Be aware of your personal filters and triggers.

As you listen, remain open to what you are hearing without judgement. We are all products of our upbringing, life experiences and culture. This makes us unique humans, however, this also can be a major obstacle to being an effective listener.

Be aware of what triggers you and what shuts down your listening. Keep a journal of these triggers. Identifying triggers and learning to suppress them will help you listen without bias.

3. Create an environment for listening to occur.

Daily life holds many distractions. To be an active listener you need to aim to remove distractions.

When it’s impossible to eliminate distractions, communicate that this is not a good time and request to schedule a time when you can be fully present for the conversation in mind, body and spirit.

4. Listen without formulating a response.

As listeners we are able to think at a speed of 500 words per minute, while the normal speaking rate is about 125 to 150 words per minute. The temptation is to fill in this space with our own thoughts or responses to what is being communicated.

Try hearing everything that someone is saying. Listen to the entire message and then respond.

5. Be aware of non-verbal communication.

75% of what we communicate is non-verbal—on behalf of both the speaker and the listener.

Look for both verbal and non-verbal communication messages. These are often clues to help us better understand what is being communicated.

Equally important is to understand what non-verbal communication clues we send as an active listener.

6. Listen with empathy.

Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing. Too often, instead of listening with empathy, we try to provide advice on how to “fix-it.”

Learn to listen for what the speaker may need or not need. Sometimes our role is just to listen with empathy!

7. Listen actively.

Active listening isn’t hard, but it’s easy to forget the principles if you don’t take time to master them and remind yourself of them occasionally.

No matter who you’re listening to, strive to treat them to your full attention. Ask questions of interest to demonstrate that you are truly listening. Make eye contact with the speaker and nod your head occasionally.

Active listening like this helps you cultivate respect and trust and build stronger engagement in your organization and at home.

If you’d like to perfect your active listening, review our free Active Listening Checklist.

Active Listening Checklist

Look

  • I face forward and make eye contact.
  • I sit straight or lean in.

Smile

  • I nod and smile.
  • I keep a clean, welcoming space for conversation.

Listen

  • I avoid distractions.
  • I visualize what the speaker is saying.
  • I focus on meaning, not style.
  • I listen rather than think about how to respond.

Respond

  • I always wait for a pause before speaking.
  • I paraphrase important points.
  • I ask questions to learn more.
  • I let the speaker know when I don’t understand.
  • I take notes when needed.

Practice active listening.

  1. Print out this list.
  2. Focus on one section or tip each day. (It’s difficult to work on 10 tips at a time!)
  3. If you get distracted while listening to someone, notice what distracted you. After the conversation, consider if it’s possible to remove the distraction to improve your ability to connect when people speak to you.

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