7 Steps to Improve Your Listening Skills

Why do I need to work on my listening skills?

When was the last time you got caught in an argument or conflict?

How much of the argument did you really hear?

Or were you just waiting your turn to put your argument across?

Listening, and I mean really listening, is a skill. Many of us listen but never really hear what the other person is telling us. Not really hearing someone can lead to conflict which, if left, can become entrenched and difficult to resolve.

The skill of active listening can be a crucial tool for anyone to master. It can be vital if you are a manager or business owner.

How can I improve my listening skills?

  1. Keep distractions to a minimum

If you’re having a meeting, go somewhere quiet. You don’t want to be distracted by phones, emails or other people. If there are a number of people in the meeting, make sure everyone gets their turn and the person talking isn’t interrupted. You may want to consider asking those in the group to leave their phones at their desks or at the least, turn them to silent to avoid distractions from pinging emails and text messages.

  1. Teach yourself to focus

During any conversation your internal monologue will want to weigh in. It’s tricky to turn off your own voice; however, if you really want to listen you’ll need to keep checks on your inner voice. This part of active listening does require practice as there will always be things to distract you.

  1. Good eye contact

Using good eye contact shows the other person they have your attention and you’re ready to listen. Don’t stare, that’s off putting, but maintain eye contact rather than looking everywhere else. Be aware some people find eye contact off-putting and, if it’s not something you usually do, may initially be uncomfortable for you both.

  1. Don’t interrupt

It can be very easy to jump into the conversation with your own comments and speak over the person talking. Don’t do it, however strong the urge. You’ll tell the other person you’re not really listening and just want your own say. By all means use encouraging comments or noises to allow the other person to continue to share their thoughts. Encouraging comments or noises will help you to get the whole story from the other person.

If in a group, make sure whoever is talking gets uninterrupted time. This may be the first time they’ve been able to talk about what is really bothering them and interruptions can stymie this. Egos are fragile things and if someone feels theirs is being bruised they will want to immediately argue back. You’ll need to keep this under control and keep a respectful environment.

  1. Don’t steer the conversation

The point of the conversation is to allow the other person to tell you what is on their mind. You want to let the conversation flow and let the person reach the end of their piece in their own time. If you’re aware of the conflict or issue it can be easy to allow yourself to try and steer the conversation to get information you think is necessary. In doing so you may miss something important you weren’t aware of previously.

You may want to double check you’ve understood what you’re being told. You can do this by paraphrasing back the information and asking for confirmation you’ve got it right.

  1. Allow the silence

Some people need time to put their thoughts in order. Most people aren’t very good at saying how they really feel and need time to gather themselves. Be empathetic and reflect back to them. For example, you may say “I can see you’re upset” or “I can see how frustrated this situation has made you”. This will encourage the other person to keep sharing.

7. Check your response

It’s possible you are not being asked for a solution. Perhaps the person simply wants a sounding board. If that’s the case then you won’t need to give a response. Should a response be needed, give yourself enough time to carefully construct it. If you’ve been paraphrasing, you’ll have a good understanding of the issues and point of the conversation. Be careful not to judge in your response and always be respectful, regardless of what you actually think.

And don’t forget your body language! 

If you’re applying these techniques, you need to get your body language right. To properly engage the other person you should have open, positive and encouraging body language. That means:

  • relaxing your shoulders
  • sitting toward the person talking
  • smiling and nodding appropriately

Be aware of your arms crossing or turning away from the person speaking. You may send them the message you’re bored or not interested.


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Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Katherine T Young Ltd & Kate Young disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.

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