How to Be an Excellent Listener
One of the biggest secrets for being successful with both your personal and your
business goals is learning the skills of listening with excellence. Pick one of
the tips below and practice applying it throughout the day today.
- Detect whether the person talking to you is expressing facts or feelings.
Respond with extra care and sensitivity when the person who you are listening to
is coming from the more subjective domain of feelings and opinions.
- Respond fully to the feelings that someone shares before responding with the
For example, when a child says, “I am afraid that there is a monster under the
bed,” few parents provide an empathetic response such as, “Sounds like you had a
scary night.” Most parents reassure the child prematurely by saying something
like, “Don’t worry, there are no monsters.” This objective response can make the
child feel alone and that their feelings are unimportant.
- Use silence when the person talking to you is sharing feelings and you do not
know what to say.
Simply nod in understanding and let yourself be touched by what they are saying.
Resist the temptation to say something just so that you are saying something.
- Groan or make encouraging sounds when someone is sharing feelings and they
seem to desire some acknowledgement from you.
This can actually buy you some time to formulate an empathetic response.
- Focus on what someone is saying instead of thinking of what you are going to
say when they are finished speaking.
The tennis coach is always saying, “Watch the ball.” Focusing on the speaker is
equivalent to becoming a good listener. Your responses will be more helpful and
natural if you focus on the other person fully while they are speaking.
- Listen FOR things when people share instead of merely listening TO them.
There are so many things that you can listen for, such as the speaker’s values,
feelings, needs, strengths, weaknesses, etc.
- Use short responses when the speaker is sharing something that is very
important to them. Longer responses will make the speaker feel impatient because they may feel
“de-railed” by your intrusion.
- Respond to others by repeating the metaphors that they have used.
For example, if your co-worker tells you that she feels like an old lady because
her birthday is coming, you could say, “Well, at least we can use our senior
discount together when we go to the diner now.” Practice ‘volleying’ with the
metaphors of others.
- Listen twice as much as you speak.
Are you speaking more than half of the time? Remember the old saying about
having two ears and one mouth? Becoming this kind of listener is a great way to
- Remember that the attitude of your heart as a listener is always more
important and more obvious than anything that you say in response to someone.
An attitude of respect and of trying to understand another person’s world is
much more important than learning how to formulate brilliant responses.