Let’s face it. We live in a noisy world. Everyone wants to be heard. No one wants to feel as though what they are saying is not important. If you develop good listening skills, it will help your marriage, deepen your friendships, and improve your business relationships. Make it your priority to become a better listener. Here are a few tips that can help you along the way:

1. Listen: This may seem obvious to some, and not to others, but you cannot be a good listener if you do not actually listen. Do not just pretend to listen, and tune the other person out, while your mind wanders along to the next thing. First, that will not help you be a good listener (listeners listen). Secondly, the person will catch you in the act and you will look like a prize jerk. We all know when someone has tuned us out. Please pay attention to and listen to what the other person is saying.

2. Listen with your ears as well as your heart: Most of the time, the nonverbal cues speak volumes, above the words that are coming out of a persons mouth. Listening with your heart means to try to get the other persons point of view. It means to give attention to other things that may make them sound the way that they do. For instance if your wife says to you with tears in hers eyes, “Don’t you love me?” She might be saying, I feel taken for granted. She might be saying I feel as though my emotional needs are not being met. She might be saying I need more time with you. If you were listening with just your ears, you might have said, “Of course I love you,” and ended it there. Since you were listening with your heart, you would probably say: “What makes you ask that question?” Listening with your heart opens you up to further conversation and dialogue, thus improving your skills as a listener.

3. Do not read meanings that were never implied or inferred: Do not listen with an agenda. Do not read meanings that were not implied. How many times have you heard people say (or maybe you have said it yourself) “I know they said this, but they meant that”. Maybe not. Maybe you are reading meanings because you want to argue or make a comeback. Do not twist what you hear to say something that the speaker was not saying. If you are not clear, repeat what you think you heard and give the speaker feedback. That brings me to the next point.

4. Give feedback: In any serious conversation, you need to give feedback. You need to repeat back what you heard the person say. You might be surprised at what you thought was being said, that was not said! That also gives the other person a chance to correct things. It is important.

5. Engage: When in conversation, do not just listen, expressionless, like a zombie. Engage with the other party, be attentive, look at the other person; lean in, mirror their expressions, eg if they are telling a funny story, smile or laugh. If they are talking about the loss of a loved one, don’t smile. Nod your head when appropriate. Make appropriate interval responses. “Really”, “Oh?” , “Hmm”, “Wow”, are just some examples of interval responses. Just to balance this out, do not overdo it. That might cause you to look inauthentic.

6. Don’t be distracted: One of the most annoying things is to have someone playing on their phone or iPad during a conversation. Or watching TV. Or looking around. Or looking bored. Or looking at their watch. You get the picture.

7. Don’t interrupt: Don’t you hate being interrupted? So why are we so quick to do it? I was once in a situation where I actually had to tell the other person, “I have started five sentences and you have not let me finish one of them, you won’t get any of the information you need that way.” This person was asking me questions, I was answering them, and she was interrupting my answers to her questions! Granted, most people are not that extreme, but you get the picture. Being interrupted makes the other person feel as though what they are saying is not important. If you constantly interrupt people, you will soon find yourself labelled as a bad or poor listener. Train yourself to hear the other person out and not jump in the middle of what he or she is saying.

I hope that these tips were helpful. Try them out, let me know in the comments section. Do you have any other tips for becoming a better listener? I would love to read them.

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